Dan and I spent last Christmas, as well as my birthday (!), at the absolutely lovely Mount Juliet Estate with seven other family members (9 total!). Located about 15 minutes outside of Kilkenny, Ireland, Mount Juliet is an Irish country estate with a world renowned golf course, multiple restaurants and bars, and enough activities to keep one busy for a week. It is also part of Marriott’s Autograph Collection (a surprise plus for us!). All 9 of us had a lovely time and found Mount Juliet to have something for everyone, particularly those of different generations. This post reviews our stay over the holidays as part of Mount Juliet’s Christmas Package. However, in short, Christmas at Mount Juliet was just perfect – the decorations were gorgeous and the staff took care of everything. We felt our stay was worth the cost and the food was excellent!
THE MOUNT JULIET HOTEL
As mentioned Mount Juliet is a grand estate with lots to do for all ages, but I’m first going to talk about the actual hotel. For purposes of the hotel itself, the hotel is split between two buildings: the Manor House, the original home on the property, and Hunter’s Yard, the former stables. We stayed in Hunter’s Yard, and I was happy with our decision. Guests of either building can freely use facilities in both; vans and golf carts shuttle passengers between the two if walking is not feasible or preferred (but its a flat, paved 5 minute walk between the two).
Hunter’s Yard is the first building guests see when they arrive on site. Hunter’s Yard is located next to the golf course and is the more modern of the two properties. Split between two floors, Hunter’s Yard has wide, modern halls, elevators and large rooms, reminiscent of something you would find in the US. The theme of Hunter’s Yard is what I would describe as “equine,” with numerous nods to the old stables. Hunter’s Yard is home to the Mount Juliet gym, the indoor pool, The Hound restaurant (the more casual and less expensive restaurant on site) and The Saddle Bar. We opted to stay in Hunter’s Yard due to the location of these amenities and because some traveling with us needed the modern amenities (like the elevator). I recommend Hunter’s Yard to elderly guests, guests with health or mobility issues, and those with children.
The Manor House is located behind Hunter’s Yard and is the old manor on the property, which has since been converted into a riverside hotel. The Manor House has a much more antique feel, with the first floor consisting of an antique seating area (also a bar) and frequently, a pianist. The Manor House is certainly prettier than Hunter’s Yard, with a gorgeous stair case and pretty touches throughout. In addition to guest rooms, The Manor House is home to two bars, Majors and 1757, and The Lady Helen, a Michelin starred restaurant that also serves afternoon tea. I would also point out that I do not believe there is an elevator in The Manor House and rooms are said to be a little cooler and less comfortable than the modern ones in Hunter’s Yard. The Manor House is also usually a small bit more expensive than Hunter’s Yard, but I’m not sure why….
OUR ROOM AT HUNTERS YARD
We stayed in a King room with Garden View on the first floor of Hunters Yard. Our room was pretty large and consisted of a plush king bed, a desk, a window looking out to the property, a modern TV and a bathroom with a tub and separate shower. We enjoyed our room very much and had no issues with it. The bed was quite comfortable! I unfortunately forgot to take any photos of the room, so here are photos of the welcome gifts waiting for us in our room from Mount Juliet – the gift in the box is a leather luggage tag branded with the Mount Juliet logo. Our view from the window was some greenery, but being on the first floor, we couldn’t really see too much. This didn’t matter much for us, but those looking for a great view will likely prefer the second floor.
THE CHRISTMAS PACKAGE AT MOUNT JULIET ESTATE
As our stay at Mount Juliet coincided with Mount Juliet’s four day Christmas Package (December 23 – December 27, 2023), we necessarily booked the hotel’s Christmas Package. We made in the booking in August directly with Marriott due to Mount Juliet currently being part of Marriott’s Autograph collection. The cost of the Christmas Package varies by year and includes a double room for four nights with double occupancy, most meals over the four days, some drinks, some fun Christmas treats and an archery experience, as detailed herein. The 2023 price is currently listed at about $3,000 USD for a double occupancy room for four nights, which is up slightly from 2022. I’ll go through exactly what the Christmas Package included now.
Our Christmas Package started off strong with a very festive welcome at Mount Juliet on the 23rd, and then a long wait for our rooms to be ready (we arrived very early and the room was not ready until around 1:00 PM, which we knew when booking). While most of my party went into Kilkenny for the morning, Mount Juliet offered breakfast to three who stayed behind. On our return to Mount Juliet in the afternoon, Christmas was in full swing and Mount Juliet had set out complimentary mulled wine and mince pies, which stayed out until dinner and reappeared the following day. We definitely partook.
The Christmas Package included a three course dinner at The Hound on the evening of the 23rd, which three courses guests ordered from the regular dinner menu. The menu did have prices on the 23rd (which was a bit concerning!), but, as explained by our waiter, those with the package could order any starter, main and dessert from the menu. The chef also sent out some side dishes of potatoes and vegetables. All drinks were for purchase only. Below is a copy of the menu, which is unfortunately blurry, but I post so you can see some of the options, which were high quality, including crab appetizers and a delicious 24 ounce dry aged steak to be split between two people.
Christmas Eve really kicked off the Christmas holiday for us and began with a complimentary breakfast, with several hot options ordered via menu and a cold bar. Coffee beverages were included, as was juice and Prosecco! Lunch was not served on Christmas Eve, which didn’t matter as we ventured into Kilkenny town for the afternoon (stuff was open until mid-afternoon). I would also note that if you want a taxi to go into Kilkenny during this time, advise the hotel in advance so it can be arranged. Many Irish take off for Christmas from the 24th – 27th.
Christmas Eve dinner was again included and consisted of another three course meal ordered a la carte. This worked out well as everyone ordered what they wanted. We also received complimentary amuse bouche bites this evening, in addition to a three course meal, as well as complimentary Prosecco. The prices were removed from the menu at this point, making it feel a bit more all inclusive. Drinks were, again, for purchase, except for Prosecco, which was pretty freely available On offer on the Christmas Eve menu were Irish beef, chicken, pork belly, cod, and a squash risotto. Mount Juliet also had some beautiful Christmas desserts this evening, including traditional Christmas Pudding and a Christmas Tiramisu. Post-dinner, many guests made their way to The Saddle Bar for live music by resident musician Ross Kearley and drinks.
Christmas day, and everyday, began with the same breakfast and Prosecco, which was always great. However, Christmas lunch was quite special! Mount Juliet had decorated one of its conference rooms beautifully for Christmas day lunch, complete with lots of Poinsettias, a fire place, live music and Christmas Crackers. Guests, again, ordered from a three course menu, and lunch was served with a welcome glass of Champagne (not Prosecco today!). Other drinks were extra. There was also live music from the resident musician! My one regret here, I would have made a lunch reservation for a bit later in the afternoon/early evening and had less for breakfast! I didn’t realize what an ordeal Christmas lunch would be!
Christmas also included a visit from Santa for the children (which we skipped), and dinner was served buffet style in The Hound restaurant starting around 7:00 PM, with several options on offer, including beef and salmon (pic below). Live music was again offered in The Saddle Bar and at The Manor House. We found the “big Christmas celebration” to mainly take place in the morning and afternoon, with the evening being quite chill. It rained a bit in the evening, but we still made our way over to The Manor House to take some festive pics!
December 26th, AKA my birthday(!), is St. Steven’s Day in Ireland, which is almost as big a holiday as Christmas. As such, many stores, restaurants, pubs, etc. are closed, at least until the eventing. We planned to stick around Mount Juliet for the day rather than venture into a nearly closed Kilkenny. As always, we started strong with breakfast and Prosecco. However, after breakfast, we were in for a Christmas Package treat – an archery course! Included with the Christmas Package is an hour long archery course on the 26th or the 27th (book early to get your preferred day and time), and we booked 10 AM on the 26th! Our group of 9 boarded golf carts from Hunter’s Yard and were driven to a woodsy area with bows, arrows, and targets! Two employees very patiently explained to us how to shoot and we had a little competition at the end. Dan and Betty got Bull’s Eyes! This lesson lasted exactly one hour and then we were driven back to Hunter’s Lodge (or you can walk).
Lunch on St. Steven’s Day was served in same room as Christmas lunch, but this time via a buffet set up in The Hound restaurant. There were several options on the buffet to fit various tastes (soup, an Indian dish that was great!, meat dish, veggie dish, fish, meats, cheeses, etc. – all were quite tasty). Also, the Christmas Pudding with Jameson Creme Anglaise is not to be missed.
Dinner this evening, AKA my birthday (!), was served via a la carte menu in The Hound. As it was my birthday, I ordered chicken tenders and fries from the kids menu. They were excellent! I was also presented with an adorable chocolate and macaroon dessert. Dan was more of an adult and ordered steak.
Our Christmas Package ended with breakfast on the morning of the 27th, which was the same we had all week, including Prosecco! All in, we loved the Christmas Package. It was totally Christmasy and it was great to not have to do any work on Christmas! I would absolutely do this again.
I would also note that in addition to what we did, Mount Juliet was fully operational during Christmas, with all bars and activities generally being open and available. Some things that we missed, but others may want to take advantage of, were Christmas movies being played all weekend in the on site movie theatre, a “Juniors Club” for children between the ages of 5 and 12, Christmas caroling on the 24th, Santa visits on the 24th and 25th, a 5K on the morning of the 26th, and a room set up playing popular sports matches. I also must point out that the Christmas decorations went about and beyond, and were honestly the best I have ever seen!
Finally, I would finally make clear that most everything was all inclusive, except drinks not mentioned in this post and tips. Don’t forget to tip the staff! We mainly did this via credit card that we used to buy our drinks, but bring cash if you are not buying extra drinks.
THE RESTAURANTS AND BARS AT MOUNT JULIET ESTATE
I went though a lot of the food above, so I’ll be brief on the restaurants, of which Mount Juliet has two. The one that we visited most often is The Hound, Mount Juliet’s more casual restaurant located next to the golf course in Hunter’s Yard. Mount Juliet also has a second restaurant in The Manor House called The Lady Helen, which holds a Michelin star. Due to the Christmas Package, diners eat where they sleep so we did not have the option to try The Lady Helen. I understand both venues served a similar menu during Christmas.
Aside from the two restaurants, Mount Juliet Estate has four bars on premises. All have similar menus and identical prices. The first, and most “pubby” of the bars is The Saddle Bar, which is attached to back of The Hound restaurant. The Saddle Bar offered live music every night during the Christmas Package. This is a good place for a bit of a rowdy night out. Unfortunately, I have limited photos…despite visiting frequently.
The second bar is located next to the Club Shop overlooking the golf course. Called Jack’s Bar at The Clubhouse, Jack’s is very much the golf course bar, but during Christmas was home to lots of big groups, including children… We never got a drink here, but did have some of its delicious hot chocolate, which should not be missed.
The third and fourth bars are inside the Manor House. The first bar, Majors Bar, is on the main floor of the Manor House and is a quiet, classy bar, with antique furniture serving as seats. Cocktails are very good here. We posted up here for some fireplace drinks pre-dinner.
The final, and best bar IMO, is 1757, located in the basement floor of the Manor House. 1757 is actually the old cellar of the Manor House that was recently refurbished. 1757 seems like a modern bar, but also like a step back in time. Very cool! The movie theatre is located just next to 1757.
AMENITIES AT MOUNT JULIET ESTATE
The Mount Juliet Golf Course
Mount Juliet Estate is home to an award winning golf course designed by Jack Nicklaus. It even hosted the World Golf Championship, the Irish Seniors Open, and the Irish Open. We didn’t golf, but we did notice some people hitting balls during our Christmas visit. I imagine the golf course is quite popular during warmer weather. Information on fees, reservations, etc. is on the hotel website.
Hunter’s Yard offers a pool on its second floor. This was great for our Christmas stay, and we used it daily. The pool was a little chilly, but there were a few pockets of warm water. A sauna and steam room are also attached to the pool area. One annoying thing about the pool – all guests are required to wear a swim cap in the pool. Mount Juliet sells them for 4 euro or will gladly charge it to your room.
There is a pool table, or “snooker” in Ireland, in Hunters Yard. No charge to use.
Bicycles are available for complimentary use on site.
While I neither got a photograph nor watched a movie, there is a movie theatre with popcorn adjacent to the 1757. During Christmas, Mount Juliet played family-friendly Christmas movies throughout the days. The theatre was also available for private rental.
Mount Juliet Estate has fantastic grounds that guests can explore in nice weather, including the “Secret Garden.” This is a very instagrammable spot that was fun to photograph. I imagine children would really enjoy this.
Archery and other activities: Mount Juliet is home to a host of other activities, some of which come at an extra cost. For certain, I know they have archery, falconry, fishing, hiking, horse back riding, children’s playground (free), tennis courts, Segway tours, and an on-site spa with treatments. As you read above, we did archery during our stay.
The gym is located in Hunter’s Yard directly adjacent to the indoor pool. The gym is pretty nice for a hotel gym. Free water located in the gym.
STEAL OUR TRIP
Mount Juliet Estate: Mount Juliet, Co. Kilkenny, R95 E096, Ireland.