The Rock of Cashel is one of Ireland’s biggest tourist attractions. It brings in a staggering number of tourists—well over 250,000 a year, and almost 2,500 visitors a day in the busy month of August!
So while the Rock is famous and obviously worth a visit, it is frequently only a stop on a coach bus tour where you’d scramble off the bus, run around taking pictures and trying to listen to a guide, and then race back to the bus before it leaves. While this is fine for some people, there’s more to the town of Cashel which merits a longer visit.
Cashel (the town) barely gets any tourists—coaches will maybe drive through the town on the way to the Rock, but few visitors ever make it into the town. Cashel is a great town to spend the night in if you want to get away from the tourists that crowd the more popular, smaller Irish towns. Once the coach buses and the daytrippers have left, Cashel is just like a normal Irish town. It feels authentically Irish, the people are friendly, and it has plenty of pubs and a bitching kebab place to go with it!
Cashel also really encourages people to spend time in town. If you spend 15€ or more (aka if you go shopping, eat at a restaurant, or stay the night), you’ll get a voucher for a free visit to the Rock of Cashel. Since the Rock is 7€ (for adults), it’s really a worthwhile offer. So, what all should you do in Cashel?
Of course, a visit to the Rock of Cashel is obligatory if you’re staying in Cashel. The Rock is one of the best complexes of medieval architecture in Ireland, and in Europe as a whole. St. Cormac’s Chapel, which dates from 1127, has bits of the remaining wall frescoes (some of the best preserved in the country), and the Round Tower dates to about 1100. Although there is scaffolding around the chapel for the time being (due to conservation works), it’s still an impressive site made up of ancient buildings and a graveyard on the very top of the hill. I’d highly recommend going on a guided tour—I learned a lot more than I ever would have otherwise.
By far my favorite part of Cashel was Hore Abbey. The Abbey was built in the 1200s, and is located at the bottom of the hill in a field across from the Rock. It’s unfortunate that so many people visit Cashel but (in true coach-tour fashion) only see the Rock, and nothing else. The Abbey is open 24/7, is free to enter, and has its fair bit of nooks and crannies to explore. The views of the Rock itself from down at the Abbey are phenomenal! Having the time to explore the Abbey was definitely a highlight of staying overnight in Cashel.
The Tipperary County Heritage Way is another reason to stay in Cashel. You can pick up the path (easy to walk as it’s almost all on a paved road) at the intersection at Camus Road, below the Rock of Cashel. It’s about an hour of medium-pace walking until you get to the River Suir. I absolutely loved getting to explore the gorgeous Irish countryside! There are loads more walking/hiking trails in the area, if you have more time (and nice weather) in Cashel.
If you’re looking for more culture, the Cashel Folk Village has several different museums on Irish history—it’s located in the town, right by the Main Street. The Bru Boru Cultural Center (close to the car park for the Rock) specializes in Irish music and dancing. Check in advance for shows.
Of course, perhaps the #1 reason to stay in Cashel is the Bake House. From the outside it may look like your typical coffee shop/bakery, but inside it is like nirvana. They do fantastic food, and the pastries are out of this world. Eat any/all of their sandwiches and salads, and make sure you get one of the pink cakes—no idea what they were, but it was amazing.
The Rock Kebab & Pizza House does exceptional kebabs. While they’re on the pricey side at 6€, it was one of the best kebabs I had on this trip—and that’s saying something! The pita bread game is strong. Feehan’s pub is located right on the Main Street, with patio (and balcony) seating, and has good prices for a pint.
Where I Stayed: I stayed in a 10/12-bed dorm for my 2-night stay in Cashel at Cashel Holiday Hostel. It wasn’t really anything special, but it was a basic hostel for a good price. The owner was super friendly and helpful (even storing my laptop in her room during the day, since all the lockers were full), and there’s a huge backyard/BBQ area. The kitchen is massive, and there’s a common room as well. This is just about the only budget accommodation in Cashel, but the same owner runs a B&B next door if you don’t want to hostel it. It was simple and nothing fancy, and I’d stay here again if I find myself in Cashel.
There are other places to stay in and around Cashel too, although I can’t offer any insider tips. Even though I don’t have any super amazing accommodation recommendations, the town of Cashel is worth spending the night!
While the Rock of Cashel dominates the town, there really is more to Cashel than just its major tourist attraction. If you can, I definitely recommend staying in Cashel for an authentic, small-Irish-town vibe and seeing more than just the Rock!
Have you ever spent more time at a small, “tourist” stop? Or stayed in Cashel? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments!