Lying amidst 1500 acres of unspoilt woodland, pasture and formal gardens beside the River Nore, Mount Juliet House is one of Ireland’s finest Georgian houses, and one of Europe’s greatest country estates. Even today it retains an aura of eighteenth century grandeur, as the elegance of the old house has been painstakingly preserved.
Yet it is not at all intimidating as the house, with its lovely feminine curves, seems to be watching to welcome visitors as they approach along the long drive and then cross the river below on arrival - and it has a uniquely serene and restful atmosphere, with cattle and horses bringing life to the pastoral beauty of the setting.
The main rooms are grandly proportioned but, while formally furnished in keeping with their history, they have the relaxed air of a house that is happy about its business and warmly enthusiastic staff are keen to make guests feel at home. The bar and restaurant - together with some of the most desirable guest rooms - enjoy a delightful view across the river, and a few drinks, or even dinner, enjoyed outside on the terrace on a fine summer evening, would be a memorable experience.
Suites and bedrooms in the main house blend the elegance of period decor with all the comfort of modern facilities and there’s additional accommodation in the Club Rooms at Hunters Yard, which is where most of the day-to-day activities of the estate take place, and very close to the main house.
Mount Juliet is highly respected as a golfing destination, offering an 18-hole putting course in addition to the Jack Nicklaus-designed championship course. The golf course and facilities are currently being upgraded - state of the art equipment includes 24 new buggies with GPS capability and a new golf clubhouse separate to the hotel is due to open in 2016.
But there is much more to this wonderfully relaxing hotel than golf: it is well located for exploring one of Ireland’s most beautiful regions and there is no shortage of things to do on the estate - gardens and woodlands to wander, new sports to try, the Spa & Health Club for pampering
Mount Juliet is a top destination for activity breaks - there’s an equestrian centre and a range of Master Classes is offered in a number of disciplines, including fishing, painting, salsa and wellness. The hotel offers a choice of fine dining in the Lady Helen Dining Room (see below), or an attractive contemporary option in the stylish Kendals restaurant at Hunters Yard (but see News below). The dining arrangements for residents are well planned, with a choice of restaurants on some nights and alternating openings midweek so there is always variety for guests staying more than one night.
There is also self-catering accommodation, at The Rose Garden Lodges (close to Hunters Yard) and The Paddocks (at the tenth tee).
*** NEWS The Hunters Yard section of the Estate has been closed since January 2016 for major renovations, including a new 74 bedroom hotel with conference and banquet facilities for up to 290 guests.
Conference/banqueting (140/140), free broadband wifi. Children welcome (under 12 free sharing with 2 adults, but with extra bed is about €65; cot available €50, baby sitting arranged; children's play area, kids club, play room). No pets. Gardens. Equestrian; Angling. Clay pigeon shooting, Archery, Tennis, Croquet, Cycling, Walking, Trails. Spa and Health Club (15m Swimming Pool; Treatments; Hair Dressing). Banqueting (romantic wedding venue, in large marquees set up outside the front of the house, overlooking the river.) Rooms 58 (2 suites, 8 junior suites, 8 superior, 1 disabled; all no smoking). No Lift. B&B €99 pps; sc discretionary. Open all year.
Lady Helen Dining Room:
Although grand and formally appointed, this graceful high-ceilinged restaurant, softly decorated in pastel shades and with sweeping views over the grounds and the River Nore, is not forbidding and has a pleasant atmosphere.
Good food has always been a highlight of a visit to Mount Juliet, but in recent years the Lady Helen has upped the ante to become a serious dining destination, thanks to outstanding cooking by a talented team led by Head Chef Ken Harker.
Great attention is paid to seasonality, and to the use of local and speciality foods on both the à la carte and the Lady Helen Signature Tasting Menu (€75 except on Wednesday, when it is just €55); the latter includes a glass of prosecco on arrival and is offered with wine pairings for a modest €29 extra.
A range of freshly baked breads set the tone, being accompanied by the renowned Cuinneog handmade butter from Co Mayo. Expect all the little extras associated with fine dining – a flirty amuse bouche, the dainty ‘middle course’ and pre-dessert treats, plus an impressive range of petits fours with your coffee - and each successive dish tells its story, so take a moment to read the supplier list at the back of the menu, and ask further if you are interested.
An autumn menu, for example, may offer game such as loin of venison and, more unusually, red-legged partridge from County Wicklow; prime fish and shellfish – typically including scallops, langoustine, lobster, turbot and cod – come up from nearby Duncannon; and a ‘Stoneyford cheese plate’ showcases the award winning cheeses from Knockdrinna Farm at Stoneyford (where visitors are welcome at the shop and café).
The cooking has real finesse, demonstrating great skill and care – and, while it may be a little dainty for hearty eaters, the main ingredients have real flavour and garnishes truly complement each dish.
To match this beautiful food, a comprehensive wine list with good tasting notes is offered. Like the food, it is not inexpensive but appropriate to the style of the restaurant and represents good value for the quality of the overall experience – and the midweek Tasting Menu offers exceptional value, especially if you complete the experience by going for the matching wines. Service is under the direction of Agnieska Kubinska and, at its best, is engaging and discreetly anticipatory.
An Al Fresco Dining Menu is offered during the day in summer, also Afternoon Tea.