five star hotels in ireland

Holidays in Ireland

My Review of Mount Juliet – Serenity and Style in Ireland’s Ancient East

sarah and alex horse riding

Five-star modern luxury combined with ancient traditions in 500 acres of woodlands, parks and gardens – Mount Juliet is an oasis in the heart of Ireland’s Ancient East.


I hadn’t been away for six months, which seemed like a lifetime to me. I couldn’t wait to have food served up to me again, to feel luxurious crisp cotton sheets against my skin, and to try new experiences – something I always try to do when I go away. As soon as travel restrictions were lifted within Ireland, and hotels were officially allowed to re-open, I booked my first staycation. Kilkenny was an obvious choice. It is close to my home town of Dublin, and being a city, I figured most shops, restaurants and attractions should be open. I had also never had a family holiday in Kilkenny before, and was looking forward to trying some of the many things to do in Kilkenny with kids.


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There are plenty of family friendly hotels in Kilkenny, but I wanted to stay somewhere special. Perhaps I wanted to make up for all the overseas trips I had to cancel, or perhaps I just felt like I needed some spoiling, but there was never a doubt in my mind, I had wanted to stay in Mount Juliet for years. My sister is a regular visitor and it is undoubtedly one of Ireland’s best hotels, and I couldn’t wait to experience it for myself. 


Driving into Mount Juliet Estate set the tone for the weekend. The winding road led us past the Jack Nicklaus designed golf course, the sun was shining and we could see golfers playing on the immaculate fairways. When we arrived at the creeper-clad 18th century Georgian House, we immediately felt the wow factor. 

Mount Juliet Estate - Manor House


Ireland has many fine Manor House hotels, but there was something special about Mount Juliet. The fact that a couple cantered past us on horse back just as we were about to enter the hotel certainly added to the ambiance. Even the name sounds romantic – I guess one automatically thinks of Romeo and Juliet. However, Mount Juliet Estate has a love story of its own. It was built by the first Earl of Carrick and it was named after his beloved wife, Lady Julianna Butler who made it their home in 1750. Its setting is stunning too. It is built on a ridge overlooking the River Nore with 500 acres of woodlands, parks and gardens. 

horse riding in mount juliet

It was great to see that Mount Juliet had excellent Covid protocols in place. There was a one-way system in and out of the hotel, with temperature checks on arrival. All of the staff had face shields and we immediately felt very much at ease.



Rooms at Mount Juliet Estate

Kilkenny Tourism very kindly booked us two rooms in the 32 roomed Manor House. We had two adjoining rooms on the ground floor which led out on to our own private garden, we couldn’t have asked for better. We were able to enjoy pre dinner drinks outside, while the kids played happily in the garden. There are three rooms that share this garden, so they are an ideal choice if you are travelling with friends or extended family.  

mount juliet garden rooms

The rooms were extremely spacious and elegantly furnished. Traditionally they would have more soft furnishings like cushions and throws, but with Covid-19 restrictions, these have been temporarily removed. Mount Juliet are also limiting the amount of contact that staff have in their hotel rooms, so the traditional turndown service was temporarily paused. Arriving back to our room to see our bed not made was an unfortunate consequence of the ‘new normal’. However, if you want your bed made and fresh towels delivered, you can ask at reception for this. (Please note: Mount Juliet had just re-opened and was adapting correctly to the new Covid-19 guidelines. Some of these guidelines may change, so it is important to check what protocols are in place when booking.)

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Mount Juliet Estate is also home to Hunters Yard, a 93 roomed hotel which was originally the estate’s stables and outbuildings. It wasn’t open during our visit but I did manage to get a sneak peak. This relatively new hotel offers a more contemporary and relaxed style, but still retains the five-star rating. There are more family rooms available there, as well as a swimming pool and spa. I’m told the Hound Restaurant is popular too, and the courtyard is the perfect place to enjoy a drink during the summer months. The banqueting hall where weddings are held is also located at Hunters Yard.


Walking around the magnificent grounds I could see why Mount Juliet is such a popular wedding venue. Woodland trails and river view walks are plentiful, but it was the old walled garden that I found the most captivating. I was told that this ornamental garden is usually manicured, but as the hotel had only just re-opened, the garden had a wilder more natural feel – I loved it.


It is also home to Mount Juliet’s famous Moon Gate. Traditionally found in the gardens of Chinese nobles, there is something almost spiritual about it. It was designed to perfectly frame the setting sun, and I imagine many newly weds celebrated the start of their new lives together there. You are welcome to stroll around the grounds and discover all its delights yourself, or alternatively ask the concierge to advise you on walking trails that might suit your personal taste.


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Children’s activities at Mount Juliet Estate

Mount Juliet can also arrange treasure hunts in the gardens for children, and I was surprised at how much children’s activities are available in Mount Juliet. There is a large playground with a zip line, as well as a fairy trail located in the gardens. Extensive kids clubs operate during school holidays, (extra charge applies), so parents can enjoy a round of golf or spa treatment while the kids avail of the supervised activities.


There are two kids clubs, one from age 5-12 and the other 12+. Activities range from archery, equestrian and meet the owls, to baking, golf and arts and crafts. It is important to check activities in advance with Mount Juliet as some activities may change. There are also evening activities such as a talent show and movie nights, and children can dine with their new pals giving parents the opportunity to have a date night.  

childrens playground in mount juliet



Dining at Mount Juliet Estate

Speaking of date nights, the Michelin-starred Lady Helen restaurant is the perfect place to have one. The dining room is calm and inviting and offers stunning views of the grounds through massive Georgian windows. Unfortunately as Mount Juliet had just re-opened, they had to abide by the latest government protocols for dining. With allotted times for dinner, the traditional Michelin star menu had to be replaced with a more brasserie-style offering. (This is another temporary measure).


I enjoyed whipped Knockdrina goats cheese with pickled beets, followed by steak-frites with onion rings and bearnaise sauce. There was a separate children’s menu, although Luke was unable to resist the steak-frites on the adults menu, and managed to clear his plate, despite the extremely large portion. As expected from a restaurant of this standard the food was delicious, however I felt the menu was quite limited. It was unfortunate that we didn’t get to experience the true Lady Helen Michelin star experience, but it has given me a good excuse to go back…

Dining at Mount Juliet

Breakfast is served in the same dining room and I can safely say that I didn’t miss the buffet in the least – we enjoyed a terrific feast on both mornings. Cold foods that would traditionally be included in the buffet, such as cereals, fruit and breads were on the menu, as well as a choice of hot dishes made to order by the chef.

I tried traditional porridge with a shot of Baileys the first morning, and a full Irish breakfast the next. My husband, Cormac, enjoyed the boxty cake and the eggs benedict. The kids were also delighted to be able to pick and choose what they wanted from the extensive menu. They enjoyed a variety of dishes including pancakes, and traditional full Irish breakfasts. 

Breakfast at Mount Juliet

I should point out that if Michelin star restaurants are not your thing, there are plenty of other dining options available. The Hound Restaurant in Hunters Yard and Jack’s Bar at the Clubhouse offer extensive but more casual dining, while Major’s Bar offers afternoon tea and light snacks throughout the day.



Experiences at Mount Juliet Estate

Trying new outdoor experiences is part and parcel of a stay in Mount Juliet. Falconry is available on the grounds with the charming John Duggan of Hawkeye Falconry. We had the pleasure of trying falconry with John previously, and I can highly recommend it. With golf, horse riding, falconry, archery and fishing all available, this is the perfect opportunity to try something new in stunning surroundings. 


On our last morning we decided to try something synonymous with Mount Juliet – horse riding. The Mount Juliet Equestrian Centre is one of the most impressive centres in Ireland. From experienced riders to complete beginners like myself, they have horses and trails to suit everyone. I decided it was time for some mother and daughter time, so myself and Alex (aged 9) left the boys in the rooms as we trotted off to the equestrian centre. 

Alex was immediately taken her horse Rodger, and I was impressed at how well groomed and spotless the horses were, even the stables were immaculate. Within minutes myself and Alex were ‘saddled up’, and we were led off on a trail around Mount Juliet Estate. It was my first time to ride a horse, and I couldn’t have imagined a more idyllic location.


Alex was carefully supervised by our instructor and felt at ease the whole time. We rode through a beautiful woodland trail, past the golf course, before arriving at the Manor House. It was almost like a show experience, the type you see on a promotional video but don’t expect to actually experience the same thing – but we did! The experience costs €70 per adult and €50 per child and officially lasts one hour, but it was almost 90 minutes before we got back to the equestrian centre. I felt this was good value for such a unique experience.

horse riding past the manor house in mount juliet


Whether you choose to stay in the elegant Manor House or the chic Hunters Yard, you will enjoy top class facilities, service and surroundings in one of Ireland’s best hotels. However, Mount Juliet offers something more than that. There are no new fads here, but traditional experiences that offer a sense of serenity to your stay.

For the past four months our whole world has been turned upside down due to the pandemic, but one thing that we have enjoyed is our new found love for nature and traditional pastimes. It seemed really fitting that our first staycation was to a place that was in keeping with these values. Mount Juliet offers five-star luxury in beautiful surroundings with an emphasis on top class outdoor experiences. Make sure to pay a visit soon. 

For more information visit Mount

Note: Kilkenny Tourism organised my stay in Mount Juliet, but all views, as always, are my own. 


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The Travel Expert Sarah Slattery


Holidays in Ireland

Best Hotels in Ireland For Luxury And Romance

ireland romantic holidays

Why not surprise your loved one with a luxury escape when we can travel again? I’ve listed the best hotels in Ireland for luxury and romance below.

Think waiter service, 1,000 thread count bed sheets and outdoor hot tubs – we all want something to look forward to… Why not make that dream a reality and book a romantic escape in one of the best hotels in Ireland? I’ve listed my top picks below, which include five star luxury hotels and foodie breaks in Michelin star pubs that happen to have rooms upstairs! 

If you are looking for something more secluded off the beaten track, I also have some dreamy romantic retreats and homes with tubs in this post:

The best Airbnbs in Ireland for couples



1. Adare Manor, Co Limerick

best hotels in ireland - adare manor

After a staggering two-year long refurbishment, Adare Manor opened to rave reviews, and has already won numerous awards including the best resort in Europe and the 5th best resort in the world, in the Condé Nast Traveler Readers Choice Awards. Be prepared to be astonished by the 840 acres of pristine parkland, the lavish interiors and the award-winning spa.

This luxury five-star resort also boasts the Michelin star restaurant, The Oak Room. If you are looking to spoil yourself, or a loved one, then look no further than Adare Manor.

Check prices here



2. Ashford Castle, Co Mayo  

Ashford castle is one of the best hotels in Ireland

Is there anything more romantic than staying in a 13th century castle? I recall driving across the moat and seeing Ashford Castle for the first time – it was like being inside a fairytale. Awarded the accolade as a National Geographic Unique Lodge of the World, Ashford castle is undoubtedly one of the best hotels in Ireland. As well as lavish interiors and a choice of dining options, you can enjoy a host of sporting activities or relax in the stunning spa.

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3. Ballyfin Demesne, Co. Laois

best hotels in ireland - ballyfin demesne

Ballyfin Demense is not only one of the best hotels in Ireland, it is one of the best hotels in the world according to Condé Nast Traveler. According to Richard E Grant “it was like stepping back in the past without the inconvenience of no electricity. The personal attention…the welcome of the people, the setting, the food, I should be their PR manager” – it sounds pretty special doesn’t it? This five-star luxury country house has only 20 rooms and is open to residents only – it is a perfect choice for an intimate escape. 

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4. Castle Leslie, Co. Monaghan


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Castle Leslie Estate is one of my favourite hotels in Ireland. The fact that is one of the few great Irish castle estates that still remains in the hands of the founding family is remarkable. Surrounded by 1,000 acres of woodland, lakes and stunning gardens, I don’t believe you could take a bad photograph in Castle Leslie. If you are fortunate to get married here, (like Sir Paul McCartney and many other celebrities), you take over the whole castle – only you and your guests are allowed to stay. Castle Leslie is often referred to as ‘Europe’s most romantic hotel’ – I can see why.

Read how I was captivated by Castle Leslie here.

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5. Cliff House Hotel, Co. Waterford


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I stayed overnight in The Cliff House Hotel last year and loved it. It is regarded by many as one of the best hotels in Ireland and I couldn’t agree more. This five-star boutique hotel in the small fishing village of Ardmore has only 39 rooms, and is the ultimate romantic hideaway.

I had a superb meal in its Michelin-star restaurant – in fact it one of the best meals I have ever eaten. I only wish I had time to enjoy the swimming pool and spa too. Its setting, perched on a cliff over looking the Irish Sea is absolutely breathtaking. Bring me back….

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6. Dromoland Castle, Co. Clare

Dromoland Castle is one of the best hotels in Ireland

Dromoland Castle has been welcoming guests since the 16th century. It is the ancestral home of the O’Briens of Dromoland, whose lineage dates back 1,000 years to Brian Boru. I stayed here many years ago with my husband and enjoyed a wonderful romantic weekend. The bedrooms are superb, we were fortunate to be staying inside one of the turrets! This luxurious five-star hotel is full of history, grandeur and romance – a royal stay is guaranteed. 

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7. Finn Lough Bubble Domes, Co. Fermanagh

finn lough bubble domes glamping in ireland

You may have seen images of similar domes under the Northern Lights in Lapland or Norway, but you only have to venture as far as Co. Fermanagh to enjoy stargazing from the comfort of your own four-poster bed. With a 180 glass dome you will feel immersed in nature, albeit from a heated dome that comes equipped with an ensuite bathroom, Nespresso coffee machine, bath robes and complimentary breakfast. There is also a luxury spa and top quality restaurant on site.

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8. Galgorm Resort, Co. Antrim

Galgorm Resort - one of Irelands best hotels

Galgorm Spa and Golf Resort is one of Northern Ireland’s most luxurious spa hotels. Set within 163 acres of parkland with the River Maine flowing through the estate, it has all the feels of a secluded hideaway, yet is only 30 minutes from Belfast. The riverside hot tubs and outdoor heated pools are an Instagram favourite, but there is more to Galgorm than its unique thermal village. There are numerous dining options to choose from as well as a championship golf course.

I was supposed to be staying in Galgorm Resort in March but unfortuntely had to cancel. Hopefully I will visit later in the year – watch out for my review!

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9. Glenlo Abbey Hotel, Co. Galway

Ireland's best hotels - Glenlo Abbey

Glenlo Abbey is located on an 138-acre estate on Lough Corrib, and has been welcoming guests since 1740. The on site facilities are impressive, and include a Falconry, archery, fishing, golf, and the Abbey movie theatre. However, the pièce de résistance is the Pullman Restaurant, which is two former carriages that once served on the Orient Express. Can you think of anything more romantic than telling your loved one you will be dining in the Orient Express?

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10. Harvey’s Point, Co. Donegal

best hotels in Ireland - Harveys Point

Harvey’s Point has been on my wish list for many years, in fact I promised myself I would visit this year – hopefully that will still happen. Although only a four-star hotel, Harvey’s Point always manages to receive five-star reviews from its guests – it has been named the best hotel in Ireland five years in a row from Tripadvisor.
Guests love the spacious bedrooms, friendly staff and the award-winning cuisine, but it is the setting on the shores of Lough Eske, overlooking the Blue Stack Mountains, that give it an air of romance.

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11. Hayfield Manor, Co. Cork

Hayfield Manor - one of Ireland's best hotels

The prestigious five-star Hayfield Manor hotel has all the charm of a country house, yet is located just a short stroll from Cork City. However, with two award-winning restaurants and the Beautique Spa with indoor heated pool, you may find it difficult to leave.

Hayfield Manor is an independent family owned hotel whose mission is to exceed guests expectations. It seems it has succeeded, as it was won numerous awards including Ireland’s Best Welcome at the 2020 Irish Independent Reader Travel Awards.

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12. Lough Eske Castle, Co. Donegal

Lough Eske Castle - one of Ireland's best hotels

Lough Eske Castle is steeped in history and romance. Dating back to the 15th century and set within 43 acres of native woodland on the shores of Lough Eske, it certainly has the wow factor. It blends its historic past with contemporary luxury beautifully, and has a luxury spa with a swimming pool for the ultimate relaxing break.  

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13. Marlfield House, Co. Wexford


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My husband Cormac and I booked an overnight escape to Marlfield House last year – a rare night away without the kids. Located just an hour’s drive from Dublin, it is a great choice if you can only get away for one night.

We arrived in time for lunch and enjoyed a fabulous meal in the Conservatory Restaurant. In the evening time we ate in The Duck, a restaurant that deserves all the praise and awards that it receives. We also enjoyed a stroll on the famous Curracloe beach before returning home the following day. 

Read: My review of Marlfield House

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14. Monart, Co. Wexford


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If you are looking for a romantic spa break in Ireland, then look no further than Monart. You won’t find a sports facilities and nightly entertainment, but you will find one of Ireland’s best spa hotels.

When you arrive you can slip on your robe and never don clothes again until you leave – yes many people even dine in their bath robes! It is one of the most relaxing hotel stays I have experienced, but you do need to plan a quiet night with not too many night caps to experience it properly. Many Irish hotels have spas but there is only one destination Spa hotel in Ireland – Monart. 

Read: My review of Monart 

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15. Sheen Falls Lodge, Co. Kerry

luxury hotel deals in ireland

Sheen Falls Lodge enjoys an idyllic location overlooking Sheen Waterfalls, as well as being within walking distance to the picturesque town of Kenmare. A Relais & Chateaux Hotel, it boasts fine food and wine and a host of activities including kayaking, paddle-boarding, archery, fishing, horse riding, clay pigeon shooting and falconry. If you prefer to relax, spend some time in the spa or indoor heated pool.

Kenmare is ideally situated on the Ring of Kerry and on the Wild Atlantic Way, making it a great choice if you want to see some of Kerry’s highlights. 

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16. The Hideaway at Dromquinna Manor, Co. Kerry

best places to go glamping in Ireland

For couples looking for the ultimate retreat, The Hideaway is the place to go. You will be staying in a custom made African safari tent, over looking the lake on the grounds of Dromquinna Manor. The world ‘tent’ doesn’t adequately describe your accommodation… Complete with a luxurious en-suite bedroom and private veranda, it is camping but not as you know it.

There is a separate entrance to the Hideaway via a private gated garden ensuring absolute privacy. A delicious breakfast basket will be delivered to your tent every morning and you can enjoy dinner in The Boathouse in the evening. This is my idea of pure romance and I can’t wait to visit!

Read: My top picks for glamping in Ireland

Read: The best Airbnbs in Ireland for couples

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17. The Ice House Hotel, Co. Mayo

Best hotels in Ireland - Ice House Hotel

Funky furnishings and an eclectic design combine to make The Ice Hotel one of Ireland’s coolest hotels – excuse the pun! It has all the feels of a city hotel, yet located in the countryside on the banks of the river Moy. The outdoor hot tubs and superb spa garden, as well as fantastic food, fine wines and clever cocktails, have made guests return year after year.

A member of Ireland’s Blue Book the Ice Hotel boasts 32 rooms and suites, creating an intimate atmosphere for a romantic break away.

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18. The Shelbourne, Dublin

shelbourne hotel is one of Irelands best hotels

I may be a little biased to consider The Shelbourne Hotel as one of Ireland’s best hotels – I got married here many years ago! It is not only a luxury five-star hotel, but it is one of Dublin’s landmarks. Located right on St. Stephen’s Green, it has been the centre of the city’s social and cultural life for 200 years.

I still love to pop into The Shelbourne whenever I am in town, and I can think of no where better to stay in Dublin if you want to plan a romantic break away.

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19. The Wild Honey Inn, Co. Clare

Foodie breaks in Ireland - The Wild Honey Inn

Romantic escapes don’t need to be in five-star hotels! Foodies will love the chance to stay in this traditional Inn that was the first pub in Ireland to be awarded a Michelin star. More like a restaurant with rooms than a typical hotel, the bright airy rooms have their own terrace with views over the surrounding countryside. For couples who are looking for a unique adult-only experience with fine dining, check out the Wild Honey Inn.

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20. Wineport Lodge, Co. Westmeath

Wineport Lodge - romantic hotels in Ireland

Wineport Lodge has been a firm favourite for romantic breaks in Ireland for many years. Located in Athlone, in the centre of Ireland, it is easily accesible from most cities, making it a good choice for an overnight escape. Its tranquil setting on the banks of Lough Ree makes you feel immediately relaxed once you step inside. Enjoy a treatment in their Treatment Suite or a bathe in the outdoor hot tub, and let’s not forget a glass the obligatory of wine on the terrace.

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I hope this post on the best hotels in Ireland will help you plan a romantic escape in the near future. Note some of the links in this post contain affiliate links where I receive a small commission if a booking is made, but at no additional cost to you.


Like holidays in Ireland? See more here.



The Travel Expert Sarah Slattery


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