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Extended 100 Year History

Extended 100 Year History

Killarney History

100 Years of Huggard Hospitality



A milestone chapter in a great Irish tourism success story is being celebrated this year as the country’s first family-owned hotel chain celebrates a remarkable 100 years in business.


The Huggard family will mark the magical centenary in some style after 10 wonderfully enterprising and successful decades during which they have earned a deserved reputation as one of the great pioneering families in the hospitality industry.


100 years on, the marvellous family tradition in the hotel trade is being maintained and further developed in County Kerry at the award-winning Lake Hotel in Killarney and the hugely popular Butler Arms Hotel in Waterville which are now owned and run by third and fourth generations of Huggards.


The secret to success that has served the family so well down through the generations is the emphasis placed on quality, attention to detail, first rate customer service and a determination that all who stay at hotels run by the Huggard family become friends as well as guests.


The proud history of the family’s involvement in Ireland’s hospitality trade can be traced back 100 years when Martin Huggard, an enterprising farmer and fisherman, operated the 28-bedroom Bay View Hotel, overlooking the sea at Waterville.


In 1912, he married Wicklow native Mary Doyle and, from a business perspective, it was a match made in heaven given the great experience and expertise she had acquired through her time on the management team with the Great Southern Hotel company.


Martin and Mary were blessed with seven children, Noel, Maud, Hilda, Billy, Cecily, Brendan and Patricia, many of whom went on to leave a hugely positive imprint on Irish tourism in general and on the hotel industry in particular.


Possessing an impressive business acumen and a determination to capitalise on many opportunities as they arose, Martin and Mary acquired the 60-bedroom Butler Arms Hotel in Waterville in 1917 and they quickly earned an international reputation for excellence that helped attract high-profile guests of the calibre of big screen icon Charlie Chaplin and his family, the late great Walt Disney, Sir Alec Guinness, President Se and Hollywood star Shirley MacLaine.

 Walt Disney with Mrs Huggard


As the years progressed, the Huggard hotel empire grew at an impressive pace, the highlights being the 1922 purchase of the splendid Caragh Lake Hotel near Killorglin and the acquisition in 1927 of the Royal Hotel, a 40-bedroom landmark building on serene Valentia Island.


A genuinely caring customer charter and a passionate attention to detail ensured that the businesses progressed, at a steady but impressive pace, to become one of the great Irish tourism success stories and the ability to promote the three family-owned hotels as a group, with interchangeable services, offered an enormous advantage.


In another exciting development for the Huggard family, and for Irish tourism, the State asked Martin and Mary Huggard to restore and run the prestigious Ashford Castle in Connemara and that world famous establishment was subsequently purchased from the Land Commission by their son, Noel, who had served his apprenticeship in the hotel industry at some of London’s finest establishments. The hotel was sold to an interested party in 1970.


Another exciting chapter for the Huggards opened in 1940 when they purchased the flagship Lake Hotel, on the shores of the world famous Lakes of Killarney, which was expertly run for many years by the enterprising Hilda Huggard.

 History in Kerry, Hilda Huggard

Dating back to 1820, its unrivalled location offers spectacular, all-encompassing views of Killarney’s lakes and mountains and the hotel is perfectly positioned for a great future given its status as one of most famous and respected family-run hotels in the country.


The family success story continued at pace when, in 1949, Noel Huggard acquired the spectacular 18th century Ballinahinch Castle Hotel in Connemara which was later sold to a company of 100 shareholders, spearheaded by a prominent US businessman.


Martin and Mary’s son, Billy, also operated the Reenroe Hotel in Ballinskelligs, Co Kerry and, in addition, the family took charge of Foley’s Hotel in Waterville which catered for the regular overflow of guests from the thriving Butler Arms.


The Lake Hotel in Killarney, which has been carefully developed and astutely managed to become one of the finest in the country, is now run by four of Hilda Huggard’s nephews, Tony, Colman, Niall and Joe Huggard, and it has enjoyed remarkable success, including the receipt of several national quality awards for cuisine, quality, service and hospitality.


The Butler Arms Hotel in Waterville is now in the hands of Noel and Angela’s son, Peter Huggard and his wife Mary who are running the much-loved business with the close involvement of their daughters, Louise and Paula.


The Huggard family has been at the cutting-edge of the hotel and hospitality industry in Ireland for 100 years and, given the expertise acquired, the solid structures put in place and the incredible loyalty received from generations of satisfied guests, the legacy is assured for generations to come.


The great vision, infectious enthusiasm and steely resolve to succeed, demonstrated by Martin and Mary Huggard a century ago, has been inherited by a whole new generation of the family with the Lake Hotel in Killarney and the Butler Arms Hotel in Waterville both currently thriving and sure to add another exceptional chapter to one of the greatest ever success stories in the long and colourful history of Irish tourism.

Waterville History Huggards

Brendan, Hilda, Noel, Maudie,Dr Patricia, Cecily (back)

Mary, Billy, Mary, Martin Huggard (4 Center)

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