Kilkenny to Tipperary
Your last day exploring Ireland’s Ancient East will see you departing Kilkenny and heading into Tipperary before quickly crossing into Limerick en route to Offaly, so a busy day of exploration lies ahead. Castles, abbey’s and ancient monastic sites are dotted across Tipperary, and will make up the core of your journey. Some of the highlights here will include the towns of Cahir and Cashel, while you’ll also get the chance to head west to Limerick, and the ancient site at Lough Gur.
Onwards to Cahir and Cashel
As you depart Kilkenny, the spectacular Dunmore Caves tell a story dating back millions of years, so if you have time, make a quick detour here before heading on towards Tipperary and the popular town of Cahir. Home to the stunning Cahir Castle, this is the perfect introduction to the historic ties in Tipperary. While the Rock of Cashel can often grab the tourist attention when it comes to popular sites in Tipp, Cahir Castle is a must see when exploring this part of Ireland. Located on a rocky island on River Suir, the castle is steeped in history dating back to the 12th Century. The present structure dates back to the 13th Century and has been open to the public since the 1970s.
While you’re exploring the town of Cahir, be sure to visit the ‘Swiss Cottage’ which lies in the heart of the Butler Estate. The thatched cottage dates back to the early 1800s and has a lovely, tranquil walking route along the river. Other historic sites to explore in Cahir include Cahir Abbey and the old St Mary’s Parish Church. As you depart Cahir to head north to Cashel, take time to stop off at one of Tipperary’s best kept secrets, the 12th Century Athassel Priory, the largest Medieval priory in Ireland. If you are planning on spending a few days in Tipperary, take time to explore the nearby Galty Mountains (or The Galtees), where you can enjoy many scenic walks and cycles. The Glen of Aherlow is a lush valley near The Galtees, and home to many scenic walks and prehistoric and early Christianity sites.
Marvel at the Rock of Cashel
As you arrive in the town of Cashel, there’s only one place you need to make sure you get along to, and that’s the famous Rock of Cashel. Cashel is awash with historic buildings, and a fitting place to experience on your last day through 5,000 years of Irish history. One of the most remarkable collections of Celtic art anywhere in Europe, the Rock of Cashel is a hugely impressive collection of buildings, rising majestically into the Cashel skyline.
Also known as Cashel of the Kings and St. Patrick’s Rock, the Rock of Cashel is said to be the site at which St Patrick converted Aenghus the King of Munster back in the 5th Century. Once the seat of the High Kings of Munster, the current structure dates back to the 12th and 13th Century with buildings including a round tower, High Cross and Romanesque Chapel, 13th Century Gothic Cathedral, 15th Century Castle, along with a restored Hall.
With amazing panoramic views of Tipperary, there’s something magical about visiting the Rock of Cashel. If you’re visiting late in the evening, try to stay to the sun sets, and a photo opportunity like no other. Before leaving Cashel, take time to visit some of the towns other popular attractions including Dominic’s Abbey, Cashel Folk Village, Hore Abbey, Famine Wall and Cashel Palace.
Explore Tipperary’s Many Castles
From Cashel, head north towards Offaly, passing through the towns of Thurles and Nenagh. If you have time, make the short detour to Limerick and visit Lough Gur and experience 6,000 years of Irish living and heritage at the Lough Gur Heritage Centre. The highlight of the area is the famous Stone Circle, the largest stone circle in Ireland. From Cashel, make your way towards Offaly, passing through Thurles, Nenagh and Roscrea on the way.
Be sure to visit Holycross Abbey on your way to Thurles, and you’ll also have ample opportunities to visit some more of Tipperary’s famous castles, with Grallagh Castle, Ballynahow Castle, Farney Castle, Nenagh Castle, Lackeen Castle and Roscrea Castle all within driving distance of county Offaly. Call it a night in Nenagh or Thurles and give yourself more time to enjoy the wonders of Tipperary. If time is on your side, consider driving the Lough Derg Loop.