Monday, 16 March 2015

Rock of ages

We were having one of those travel moments when we knew what we were looking for, but weren't sure what it looked like, and were concerned we had passed it.

But then, my friend and I gazed to the right and immediately spotted it:  Ireland's Rock of Cashel.  

In hindsight, we needn't have worried about missing it.

This is no pebble by the roadside, but a sizeable fortress mound with castle and cathedral ruins on top.   It would be pretty hard to miss... even for us.

First glimpse:  Rock of Cashel 

On the approach

The Rock of Cashel, nestled beside the town of Cashel, is also known locally as Cashel of the Kings and St Patrick's Rock.

According to legend, the rock comes from a nearby mountain, called the Devil's Bit.  When St Patrick banished Satan from a cave in the mountain, the rock was thrown to it's current site.

This is also where St Patrick was believed to have converted the King of Munster.  

Clearly St Patrick was a bit of an overachiever and hit his stride at Cashel.

Inside the ruins

We're at Cashel on a beautiful Irish autumn day - it's mostly cloudy, a little cool and with periods of light drizzle.   The weather sets the mood of this place perfectly.

Rock of Cashel is a mash of mostly ruined buildings that map its history.  Each crammed against each other, leaning and partially blending into each other.

Among the pack are a 12th century round tower, a 13th century Gothic cathedral and 15th century castle.

Importantly, there's enough remaining to give us a tantalising taste of what life might have been like here hundreds of years ago.  With the harsh Irish weather, and cool and dark castle interiors, this would have been no place for the faint hearted.

But for me, one of the best sites at Rock of Cashel is the graveyard nestled beside the ruins, complete with moss-covered headstones tilted to the side.  

Traditional Irish high crosses stand tall here, casting their eye over the region's impossibly green fields.

Heading out to the graveyard

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