Two five-star hotels, a secret cinema and endless acres of parkland make Mount Juliet one of Ireland’s top resorts
A Georgian manor overlooking the River Nore. Five hundred acres of parkland paradise. Not one, but two five-star hotels. A Michelin star. A gorgeous, Jack Nicklaus-designed golf course that makes me wish I could play the damn sport.
Mount Juliet always felt premium to me, but with millions invested since my last visit, that sense of expectation has only risen. Driving out from Kilkenny City, the hedgerows hug closer until we turn through the imposing gates and sweep into this rolling 500-acre estate.
Sunset flips a wintery filter over the trees and greenery, and I can feel the hack in me reaching for the most stereotyped of stereotypes — the one about “stresses melting away”.
The rating: 7.5/10
That doesn’t quite happen, though.
It’s almost dark when we pull up outside Hunter’s Yard, the 93-bed contemporary-styled hotel on the estate (the 32-bed Manor House is the other). The layby feels small, the hotel entrance is a stroll away through a stable archway, a wedding is underway and it takes a few minutes for anyone to greet us and give us our bearings. A sheet of paper is searched for our names. Bags are taken and I’m directed to park nearby, before jogging back to walk inside together.
Thankfully, check-in feels more five-star. We’re invited to sit in a clubby reception with leather chairs and individual desks. There, the welcome is warm and resort layout explained, before we are escorted to our room. 7/10
The Manor House is a treasure; its stuccowork, period features, crackling fires and subtle sense of ambition create a mouthwatering setting for a stay. “This was a family home up to 1985,” as House Manager Jimmy FitzGerald puts it. “It was like an episode of Bridgerton”.
The concierges and storytellers here are among the best in the business. If you’re staying in Hunter’s Yard, make sure to mosey down for a meal, afternoon tea or a drink under the 1757 bar’s vaulted ceilings (a boutique cinema is here too, with table lamps and velvet armchairs... though it’s for over 18s, unless privately booked).
Hunter’s Yard, a short walk away, recasts former stables and haylofts as a more modern, country luxe retreat. Wooden beams and touches like pheasants in the wallpaper or saddles and blacksmiths’ hooks mounted to the walls tie together the setting and heritage, but for me it leans a little towards generic luxury, and service feels inconsistent on our visit.
For example, we arrive at the Saddle Bar to find staff feeling the pressure as they struggle to locate a missing TV remote (several guests want to watch a big match — which could have been anticipated). Elsewhere, wait staff are charming to deal with in The Hound restaurant on our visit, but some need more menu knowledge.
In terms of activities, guests have the run of a sublime, 266-year-old estate, with bikes, walking trails (don’t forget that selfie in the Moon Gate), an equestrian centre — and that golf course — all beckoning for your time. There’s a slick new clubhouse, treatment suites, and the 15m pool has gotten a ritzy refurb too, though we do find the male changing rooms to be surprisingly small. 7.5/10
The choice is between the Manor House (where rooms are individually designed and priced at a premium) and the larger Hunter’s Yard. At the latter, our double room had a deep burgundy colour on the walls, thick robes in the wardrobe, duck-feather pillows and Bvlgari products in big dispensers by a Burlington sink. There’s no turndown service, but WiFi is password-free and easy, and touches like flick light switches and a lamp with a leather strap-effect stand add tasty little layers to the luxury. It’s worth noting that there are no longer any lodge stays. 7.5/10
Set in the Georgian manor, the Lady Helen lives up its Michelin star and destination-dining billing, with John Kelly’s menus delivering exquisite local produce and polished technique in sumptuous rooms. At a price, of course — even the three-course table d’hote menu costs €99pp.
The Hound (located in Hunter’s Yard) is Mount Juliet’s award-winning casual dining restaurant. Our dishes include a tender and nicely charred sirloin steak (€40) from the Montague grill, a small but finely balanced starter of smoked salmon with a herb emulsion and horseradish buttermilk (€15; above), and a generous, juicy burger from what is still mystifyingly rare in hotels — a good kids’ menu (€10 mains). Baked Alaska was a fun way to finish, and breakfast the following morning detailed and indulgent.
Overall, our experience doesn’t quite match the atmosphere and execution of the best casual resort restaurants I’ve visited in Ireland, but it’s certainly on the right track. 8/10
This is a golden age for Ireland’s high-end resorts, with hundreds of millions of euro poured into the likes of Adare Manor, Ashford Castle, Ballyfin, Ballynahinch Castle, Carton House, Castlemartyr, Dromoland Castle, the K Club and others over the past decade or so.
Acquired by Ireland’s Tetrarch Capital in 2014, Mount Juliet joins the club with a €22m reboot, and is now a member of the Marriott Autograph Collection too.
The resort has definitely gone up a gear since my last, pre-pandemic visit, and there are stress-melty moments. But the overall bar has risen too, and I think Kilkenny’s crown jewel still has some work to do in blending its two hotel concepts — without the Manor House alongside, I’m not sure we'd be looking at Hunter’s Yard in quite the same way.
Before you book, be sure to take a look at the two offerings, their prices, and the difference between them.
Interested in Christmas? Book soon. It can sell out months ahead.
Kilkenny is the obvious choice for an outing, but 10km away at Kiltorcan Raceway is a kilometre-long go-karting track with lots of twists and turns. kiltorcan.com
B&B with dinner in Hunter’s Yard starts from €375 for two sharing; B&B with dinner in the Manor House from €545. Pól was a guest of the resort. mountjuliet.ie