Treasures of Ireland:
The Rock of Cashel
Story and photos by Tom Weber
to Big Mike, our solid-as-a-rock tour director/concierge/storyteller,
"When traveling down to the southern counties of Ireland, a man's
wardrobe should include plenty of tweed."
Looking sharp in a matching hand-loomed,
hurley tweed waistcoat (vest) and jacket, our self-proclaimed Liam Neeson-lookalike
leads the intrepid "band of merry media" 18 travel
writers and photographers invited by Insight
Vacations (Insight) to sample a portion of its Treasures
of Ireland journey up the steep path to one the Emerald Isle's
most frequented heritage sites: The Rock of Cashel.
In fine Irish fashion, David, one of the
curators at the small museum, greets us with another 100-thousand welcomes
Céad mile fáilte! then quickly takes
us back to the fifth century, the starting point of his primer about
"It was here on this spot," David
states while fronting a stone replica of the Cross of St. Patrick, "that
Ireland's patron saint converted the pagan King of Munster to Christianity
back in 450 AD." He adds, "For this reason, the Rock of Cashel,
meaning castle, is also referred to as the Rock of Kings and St. Patrick's
Sitting atop an outcrop of limestone,
the Rock of Cashel is an impressive collection of medieval buildings
that overlooks part of the Golden Vale, Ireland's prized dairy
farming area that stretches across three counties: Cork, Limerick
and, from our vantage point, the undulating pastures of Tipperary.
As David points out, these ruins
include a 12th-century round tower, a high cross, a Romanesque
chapel, a 15th century castle, the Hall of Vicars where
laymen and sometimes minor canons, appointed to assist in chanting
the various religious services, were housed and a 13th-century
Gothic cathedral named in honor of St. Patrick.
Before letting us meander about on
our own, David provides us with several grim footnotes about this
historic site as he concludes his open-air lecture.
"Over the centuries, the cathedral
and castle survived quite a few attacks," he intones, "but,
in 1647, during the Irish Confederate Wars, Oliver Cromwell's English
Parliamentary forces sacked most of the Rock of Cashel complex, massacring
nearly 1,000 Irish men, women and children inside St. Patrick's Cathedral,
and stealing the majority of the priceless religious artifacts."
With a bit more daylight to burn before
we depart this solemn place, I remove the lens cap and frame away.
Joining Big Mike for the walk back down
the lane part of the Tipperary Heritage Way towards the
parking lot and the awaiting Insight motor coach, I admire his traditional
Irish threads up close and ask, "Do you think I could score some
tweed in a 36-short?" Looking down at me sympathetically from his
lofty 6'2" frame, Big Mike smiles and replies, "Ah Tom, to
be sure. To be sure."
For complete information on Insight's 100+
premium and luxury-escorted journeys around Europe, including the Treasures
of Ireland itinerary, just click HERE,
or call toll free 1-888-680-1241, or contact your travel agent.
See you in just a bit when we'll roll through
the Golden Vale where contented cows graze, butter churns and
cheddar ages and make our way to Killarney, the Emerald Isle's
most tourist-friendly town, for some haute cuisine along High
Street prepped by a celebrity chef.
Kilkenny Way; A
Donnybrook of a Feast; Dublin
and the Book of Kells; Treasures
of Ireland: Prologue; The
Long Good Bye to Ireland