On my recent travels to Ireland, I had the pleasure of being hosted by the Butler Arms Hotel. It's located in the small resort village of Waterville, which rests on Ireland's rugged Wild Atlantic Way. Nestled along Ballinskelligs Bay, on the Ring of Kerry, Waterville is known for its championship golf courses, lake and sea fishing, and as the home of the Charlie Chaplin Comedy Film Festival.
From this luxury boutique hotel, I storm watched from the comfort of my room, walked the promenade along the seafront and spotted Charlie Chaplin, explored a stone fort, and drove the Skellig Ring, which made Lonely Planet's Top Ten for 2017.
History of the Butler Arms Hotel
The Butler Arms Hotel opened its doors in 1884 as a fishing lodge. In 1916, Martin and Mary Huggard purchased the hotel, and under Mary's directorship, it became an internationally known luxury hotel. Over the years, the hotel has had many famous guests including Charlie Chaplin (who stayed at the hotel each year with his family for over ten years), Walt Disney, and more recently the cast of “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” and “The Last Jedi.”
One hundred years later, the fourth generation manages the hotel, and you'll see sisters Louise and Paula Huggard at the front desk and chatting with guests.
Butler Arms Hotel—Luxury Along the Bay
Set along the main road facing Ballinskelligs Bay, it's not hard to miss the castle-like architecture of the Butler Arms Hotel.
I adored the hotel's lobby as the decor made me feel like I'd walked into a country lodge with its plaid carpet, antiques, and arched hallways. I arrived on a wet and blustery day, so the fireplace burned with a couple of peat logs. The staff warmly greeted me, and in a matter of minutes, I was shown to my room.
A Room with an Atlantic View
I stayed in an executive Atlantic view room that featured two twin beds, two sitting areas (one facing a fireplace and one facing the window), a floor-to-ceiling bay window and a large bathroom with a soaking tub and shower. The room also included a desk, free Wi-Fi, multi-channel television, and complimentary water.
After a long flight confined in an airplane, I thoroughly enjoyed the spaciousness of the room. Another feature I adored was the viewing window. Throughout my stay, the stormy show of waves crashing on the beach held me captive. With the palm trees in view, it almost had the feel of a tropical storm.
Another feature I appreciated was the large granite bathroom with heated floors and towel rails. There is nothing quite like the luxury of getting out of the shower with a heated towel waiting.
In total, the hotel has 36 rooms, and they come in standard or executive rooms with garden or Atlantic views. Other features of the hotel include multiple sitting rooms where guests can gather to socialize or read a book next to a fire as well as a bar for guests only that opens in the evenings. There is also a billiards room.
Dining at the Butler Arms Hotel
There are three options for dining at the Butler Arms Hotel. At Fishermen's Bar, guests can experience elevated pub food in an Irish pub with lots of dark wood, seating nooks, and fishing memorabilia. The bar is well-known for its signature dishes—seafood pie, roast rump of lamb, smoked salmon sandwich and crab claws. They also have a signature beer, the Huggard Pale Ale, from a family recipe.
To start, I ordered a beer and the goat cheese mousse with thyme, garlic and beetroot, drizzled with balsamic and honey.
For dinner, I ordered the beer battered fish and chips. Both dishes were fantastic.
Charlie's Restaurant is open for breakfast and dinner. The view in the restaurant is quite striking as it has a long row of windows that show off the landscaped yard dotted with palm trees and Ballinskelligs Bay.
In the morning, guests have the option of a traditional Irish breakfast, continental breakfast, and daily specials. Since my dinner had been quite filling, I opted for the continental breakfast, which included oatmeal with cream and cinnamon, pastries, fruit, yogurts, and juices.
Guests may also dine in the Charlie Chaplin Conservatory, near the lobby, which features views of Ballinskelligs Bay and photos of Chaplin's family on their visits to the hotel during the 50s and 60s.
Discovering Waterville Wow Moments
Waterville has some wow moments that should not be missed. Here are a few of my favorites that I uncovered during my stay at Butler Arms Hotel.
The Transatlantic Cable
One wow moment in Waterville is that it is the primary station for the Transatlantic cable. The two cables, around 2,339 miles long, connected Canada, Britain, and France. On Christmas Eve in 1884, the Waterville station received its first message.
Waterville is the only village on the Ring of Kerry that sits right along the coast. One of the town's main features is its promenade, which includes a grassy area and a path next to the beach. I was fortunate to experience the promenade on both a sunny and rainy day. I enjoyed both as each highlighted the seascape differently.
For more than ten years, Charlie Chaplin and his family regularly spent their holidays in Waterville and became much loved in the town. On the promenade is a bronze statue dedicated to the actor and nearby is a short street called Charlie Chaplin Walk. Every August, the town holds the Charlie Chaplin Comedy Film Festival, which has the blessing of the Chaplin estate.
Loher Stone Fort
A 12-minute drive from Waterville, down a very narrow road, is the Loher Stone Fort. Built to defend a small farmstead, the circular stone fort dates back to early Christian times. There is a small parking lot near the fort, and from there you walk to the fort and can go inside.
If you are looking for culture in the shape of art exhibits, movies, plays, and music, then I suggest checking out the schedule at Tech Amergin Community Arts & Education Centre. The centre is only a four-minute walk from the Butler Arms Hotel, and throughout the year they have cultural events and a garden open to the public.
Waterville is a great home base if you plan to drive the 20-mile Skellig Ring or take a Skellig Islands Tour, which both made Lonely Planet's “Best in Travel 2017.” I had arranged to go on a landing tour to see the ancient monastery on Skellig Michael, which is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the filming locations for “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” and “The Last Jedi.”
Since I was staying in Waterville, I chose The Skelligs Force Awakens because they leave out of Ballinskelligs, which is an 18-minute drive away. Unfortunately, the weather didn't cooperate, and all tours were canceled. Instead, I drove the Skellig Ring with the captain. I liked it so much, I came back on another day and drove it again. Some of the must-sees are Ballinskelligs Castle and Abbey, Skelligs Chocolate, the Kerry Cliffs, and The Skellig Experience Visitor Center.
When You Visit Waterville
After a long day of travel, the Butler Arms Hotel made me feel extremely welcomed. The comfortable bed, the ability to storm watch from my room, and excellent pub food made my first night special. Book your stay online at the Butler Arms Hotel.
Ireland is best experienced by car as there are so many off-the-beaten-path locations and towns to explore. Since my travels focused on Ireland's Wild Atlantic Way, I flew into Shannon Airport, which is 3-hour drive from Waterville. I used Auto Europe, who works with all major car rental companies to get the best deal and has automatic car options. I picked up my car rental at Auto Europe's airport location, and minutes later I was off on my Ireland adventure. It's important to note there are toll roads on the way to Waterville, and they do accept credit cards.
You can find more information about Waterville at Waterville on the Ring of Kerry, Wild Atlantic Way, and The Ring of Kerry. Read more about travels in Ireland on Wander here.
Note: As is common in the travel industry, the writer was provided with accommodations and car rental for the purpose of review. While it has not influenced this review, the writer believes in full disclosure of all potential conflicts of interest.