A 9 Person Tour of Ireland for Christmas and New Years!

After a big family trip to Italy over Thanksgiving in 2021, we did another group trip trip to Ireland this past Christmas and New Year. This time we had 9 instead of 8 people, including my parents, Dan’s siblings, our friend Pryor and her husband and mother, and stayed for 11 days! We toured a decent bit of Ireland and I think everyone remains on speaking terms, LOL. I’ll be writing about more specific bits of our trip later, but here is a summary for those interested in doing something similar!

Christmas in Ireland!


After an overnight flight from New York, we landed in Dublin early in the morning. A van, with a lovely driver, John, was waiting for us and drove us 1.5 hours to the Mount Juliet Estate, just outside of Kilkenny, where we had booked a four day Christmas package.  We got lucky and blue sky came out just as we arrived at Mount Juliet Estate.

Mount Juliet Estate in Ireland.

Unfortunately, our rooms were not ready, so some of us ventured into Kilkenny for the afternoon and others stayed and used the Mount Juliet facilities. However, we all went into Kilkenny on our second day, exploring Kilkenny Castle, seeing some Christmas decorations, and eating at the famous Kytelers Inn.  We returned to Mount Juliet both evenings for dinner, as dinner was included in our Christmas package.

Kilkenny on Christmas Eve.

Kilkenny Yulefest.

Since our third and fourth full days were Christmas and St. Stevens Day (aka my Birthday, and also a major holiday in Ireland), we stayed at Mount Juliet these two days, enjoying the property and using its pool and other amenities. As Mount Juliet is a true resort with everything you could possibly need on site, this was no problem and we had a great time.  The food was fantastic, and Mount Juliet had live music nightly. We also enjoyed Mount Juliet Estate’s pool and activities, including an archery course!

The group at our archery experience.

Tips for large family trips to Kilkenny:

  1. Kilkenny is fairly small, so it’s a good town for the group to go about on their own. It would be hard to get lost here or into too much trouble. Lots of things to do – just pick a spot to meet up at a certain time.
  2. There are a lot of stairs in Kilkenny Castle, and currently no elevator. The Castle interior will be tough for those with mobility issues..
  3. There is fantastic shopping at the Kilkenny Design Center across from Kilkenny Castle. They will even ship to the US. Dan and I purchased some beautiful Waterford martini glasses.

Tips for trips to Mount Juliet Estate (whether large family trips or otherwise):

  1. Mount Juliet Estate is designed to be self-sufficient, meaning that guests don’t have to leave for meals, activities, etc. I found this to be accurate, in a good way!
  2. Mount Juliet Estate has something for everyone onsite, making this great for large groups with varying interests.
  3. Be sure to be annoying and get all of the information you can from Mount Juliet Estate as to what is included in your stay, including things like bicycle rentals, mulled wine for guests, use of the pool, live music, etc. There is a lot going on, especially around holidays, so be sure to take advantage.


On our fifth day in Ireland, we drove from Kilkenny to Galway for three nights! Galway is a lovely, small enough town that can be explored in a day or two. It’s very walkable, and is home to some of Ireland’s best pubs and restaurants. The group had “free time” the day we arrived and our last day in Galway, allowing people to do what they wanted and just enjoy the town. While not always feasible in large cities with big groups, free time is easy in a place like Galway, as the city compact it would honestly be difficult to get lost.

Galway, Ireland in late December. Even the boats have Christmas lights.

We also had some fantastic meals in Galway, including my two favorite of the trip: (1) Dinner at Ean Wine Bar and (2) pizza from the Dough Bros.

Amazing food at Ean Wine Bar in Galway.

Pizza at the Dough Bros.

While in Galway, we also took a day trip from Galway to visit the Cliffs of Moher. The Cliffs of Moher are stunning cliffs located about a 2 hour drive from Galway. We used Galway City Tours for this day trip and, despite warnings from a negative taxi driver, the weather cleared up for our day trip to the Cliffs of Moher and we got some great pictures! We also got a decent amount of wind… LOL.

Dan and I at the Cliffs of Moher.

Tips for large family trips to Galway:

  1. Like Kilkenny, the heart of Galway is compact, so it’s easy for the group to go about on their own. Most things of interest to tourist center around a main square and a few streets around that square.
  2. Galway has great restaurants – be sure to book in advance, especially for large groups. Like in many European cities, restaurants are small and not equipped for large groups. Restaurants need time to plan accordingly and organize seating for large groups.
  3. I suggest doing shopping in Galway over Dublin. Galway has many of the same products, but is almost certainly less crowded and sometimes less expensive.


Our final three full days in Ireland, including New Year’s Eve and Day were spent in Dublin.  Our time in Dublin consisted of lots of booze themed tours, including Jameson, Guinness, Pearse Lyon, and Teeling, a pub crawl through central Dublin, an amazing New Years dinner in a the church where Arthur Guinness got married and some really good food.  We had a great time, but our days were quite packed due to the New Years holiday.  In any case, Dublin is a great place to spend New Years – lots going on and a fun vibe all around.

NYE at The Church.

Some of the group at Guinness.

Dublin over the holidays.

Tips for large family trips to Dublin:

  1. For big groups, buy tickets to attractions in advance to ensure you can all go together, especially during crowded times.
  2. Be sure to leave some time for gift shop shopping after some of the bigger tourist attractions. They all have gift shops, and they are actually pretty nice.
  3. During busy times (weekends, high tourist season, etc.) pubs can get very crowded and difficult to find space for a large group, much less seating. I suggest visiting pubs in smaller groups. You are simply not going to find a table for 9 in an Irish pub unless you go at really off hours.


On our final day, we enjoyed breakfast and then took a van to the airport.  While our flight back to the US was not until 1:15 PM, we left our hotel at 9:00 AM to ensure we had time to checkin, hit duty free, visit the Priority Pass Lounge and go through US Pre-Clearance prior to boarding our flight.  Yes, you read that right – Ireland is one of the few countries that sends Americans through Immigration and Customs prior to leaving the country.  We had plenty of time to spare, even though we may have spent too long in the lounge for some peoples taste. I wrote an article about Ireland Pre-Clearance here. Take a look if you are visiting and be sure to leave plenty of time for this task.

T1 Lounge, Dublin Airport.

I’ll be writing more about this trip later, as well as tips and tricks for traveling with a big group and over the holidays. Stay tuned!

Leave a Reply