Fancy living in luxury in the heart of rural Kilkenny? Read about our experience of visiting Mount Juliet and what it feels like to live like an Earl!
This time round in our series on living like a Lord of the Manor, we’re off to find out how it’s done in the heart of County Kilkenny. What better to send us on our way than a little spring sunshine and the sight of daffodils and tulips bobbing in the breeze.
Our destination is a magnificent country house, constructed by the 1st Earl of Carrick for Lady Juliana, his beloved wife, fondly known as Juliet. Mount Juliet, a house of romance.
So we bend and weave our way round the country lanes of rural Kilkenny, which reveal the entrance to this grand house and estate. Through the gate we go, and into the grounds of a residence with centuries of history. Built in the late 1700’s, now serving its guests in style right here in the modern day.
Since the 1st Earl of Carrick built Mount Juliet, which has a 1500-acre estate combined from two estates either side of the River Nore, there have been several Earls of Carrick in residence here. All of them were greeted, as they walked through the front door of this grand manor house, by the sweeping staircase in the hall which leads to the upper floors and charming characterful bedrooms. We’re standing on the first stair of luxury, about to find out what it must have been like when the Earls lived here. We’ve arrived.
After we’ve checked in and decided to have a wander, the first site that greets us is a group of golfers getting ready to swing a club on Mount Juliet’s world class championship course. If you like your estate walks peppered with trying to get a little white ball into 18 extremely challenging holes, this is the place to do it. Take in the fresh Kilkenny air. Work your way round a course designed by Jack Nicklaus. Walk in the famous footsteps of Tiger Woods, Ernie Els, Sergio Garcia and Padraig Harrington, among others. Are you excited yet?! We’ll say nothing more. If you’re a golf enthusiast, you’ll know those names.
Fishing for compliments
Our room is sumptuous and imposing, looking out over the gardens, estate and River Nore, one of the best salmon rivers in Ireland. There are twenty named pools on this stretch of river on Mount Juliet Estate. Salmon over 20lb in weight have been regularly caught here. You can also catch wild brown trout, some of the best in Ireland. So it’s not surprising that those who like to cast a line are attracted to coming here time and again. Estate lakes are good for course fishing for Carp, Rudd and Roach. No panic if you’re a novice either. We are impressed by the option of hiring a gillie or guide for the day and to be able to access gear from the fishing room of the house, and to learn we can also have a riverside lunch arranged for the trip.
Horses for Courses
As they say, it’s restful to watch someone else doing something! And this we can do from our beautiful room, just by looking out of the window! Horses have been part of the way of life here for over 400 years and it’s not uncommon to see (and hear) a guest clopping by on a four legged friend. There’s thirty acres of cross country riding and a cross country jumping course here, plus show jumping at Mount Juliet’s equestrian centre, as well as traditional hunting. The foxhounds of the Kilkenny Hunt are kennelled at Mount Juliet. As if that isn’t enough, Ballylinch Stud, founded in 1914 by Mount Juliet’s then owner Major Dermot McCalmont and home of champion racehorses, is also here. We can see leggy foals and well-groomed mares cantering playfully in the paddocks across the green pastures of the estate. It’s a magical sight which makes us wish we were proficient enough to take to the saddle!
Relax and Breathe
About as energetic as we are probably going to get this time round is to is to take a trip to Mount Juliet’s award winning Treatment Suites. Where we can flake out and enjoy one of several relaxation and therapy treatments in extremely calming surroundings. Then we might take a short stroll around the gardens before we dress for dinner. And boy, are we looking forward to that.
Dining in Decadence
Dinner at Mount Juliet’s Lady Helen Restaurant is a stunning experience. One coveted Michelin Star, three AA Rosettes and exclusive Good Food Ireland membership with awards for restaurant and accommodation, earmark this place as one of the ‘must visit’ gourmet destinations in Ireland. Local is the buzzword here, surrounded as the place is by some of the best producers in the country. Find cheese from Helen Finnegan at Knockdrinna Farmhouse in Stoneyford, a short drive away, and Mags and Ger Kirwan’s superb Goatsbridge trout from just down the road, among other speciality food offerings from this region.
Head Chef Ken Harker takes all this and brings out the best in every ingredient. Our mouths are watering with anticipation as we are shown to our seats in the Lady Helen Dining Room, named after Major McCalmont’s wife. We are certainly not disappointed. Chef Harker and his team give us an experience of exemplary food presented exquisitely, while the elegant floor staff linger discreetly, easily summoned with a mere glance to bring us superlative wine and anything else we need. An excellent and memorable dining experience is made up of the whole package. This particular package has a gold ribbon tied round the middle.
Sleepy-Byes and a Sumptuous Breakfast
At the end of our day at Mount Juliet, we are walked and refreshed, spa-relaxed, wined, dined and ready for our beds. Which are cloud soft to send us into heavenly slumber in opulence. After a good night’s sleep, breakfast is taken in the pretty Morning Room, with a vista over the River Nore right outside the window. A bright sunny spot where we chill and read the papers during a hearty Manor House breakfast! We can’t help but glance around the walls at paintings which have hung here for generations. And transport ourselves right back to the days of the Earls, who also sat here in this corniced room and took their first meal of the day, enjoying this same tranquil view, and no doubt enjoying the same superb service from their house staff as is present for today’s paying guests.
After breakfast, a stroll round the estate, or maybe even a specially organised tour by the experienced Estate Host who has been here for years. He knows this place like the back of his hand and if you mention it, he will take you to the historical ruined church and old graveyard on the estate, where the Earls of Carrick once worshipped and are now buried. A fascinating spot and we learn that loyal estate workers and house staff were also buried here within the graveyard walls. Such was the bond between the residing family and the team of staff who served them.
Mount Juliet has it all. History, elegance, opulence. Fine dining and outdoor pursuits and activities. Opportunities to be looked after by experts in fishing, equestrian and archery. Or to be just left alone to wander at will. Take your pick. We love it. So will you.