Bray is a historic seaside town, and satellite town of Dublin on the East Coast of Ireland, located in Co. Wicklow. Bray has been a place of importance since the twelfth century, and there were two castles there in mediaeval times, one of which still survives at Oldcourt. It was, at one time, a very fashionable resort for the wealthier of the Dublin citizens and of the gentry from a large part of Ireland. The town underwent rapid expansion in 1854 when William Dargan extended the railway to Bray. There are few surviving buildings from the period prior to 1850. It has begun, over the past 50 years, to rapidly expand as a commuter town.
Bray is easily accessible by road from Dublin and South from Arklow or Wexford. The N11 links Dublin city centre with Bray and there are frequent bus services with Dublin Bus, Glendalough Bus, Bus Eireann and Finnegan's Bray. The M50 motorway now connects to Bray allowing easy access to all major cities on the island of Ireland.
Bray is on the Dublin Area Rapid Transit (DART) Rail Network which stretches north (Via Dublin City Centre) to Malahide and Howth and south to Greystones. A ticket to Dublin costs €2.50 one way.
The town is also on the mainline Iarnród Éireann Rail Network which connects north to Connolly Station in Dublin city centre and further to Drogheda and Dundalk. To the south, the rail line goes through Arklow, Gorey and Rosslare Europort.
Finnegans Bray runs a local service from the DART station to the Southern Cross Road. They usually arrive every 30 minutes and are easily visible by their red colours. A Luas service also operates Mon-Sat at specific times. This service travels from the Southern Cross Road to the Luas station in Sandyford. It does not go to the DART station and so you will need to go to Bray Main Street.
Town Hall, Bray
Bray Head. A mile-long walk along the coast. Walking from there you can also see the esplande, begun in 1881, has a quiet Victorian charm, despite the amusement arcades. Singer Sinead O'Connor owns one of the Victorian houses on the seafront.
National Aquarium Sealife Centre, ☎ 01-2866939, . Daily 10-18. Book online to get a discount.Online prices: €8.50/adult €6.50/children €30/family.
Ardmore Studios, the National Film Studios of Ireland, . Braveheart, Saving Private Ryan and My Left Foot were filmed there. Latest productions include the BBC dramatisation of The Tudors.
The town hall, located at the south end of Bray's main street, is an exceedingly picturesque building. It was built in the quaint olde English style to celebrate the town's prosperity in the nineteenth century. The wyvern in front of the building is the crest of the Brabazon family. The building is now unfortunately occupied by a branch of the McDonald's fast food chain.
Kilruddery House, Bray
Kilruddery House, on the Southern Cross Road, off the Greystones Road, has been the home of the Earls of Meath for 350 years. The garden was laid out by Monsieur Bonet in 1682, and is one of the few gardens to survive the fashion for romantic naturalistic landscaping. The twin canals, known as the Long Ponds, are 152m in length and are similar to those at the Chateau de Courances.
Bray Tourist Office is located within the Civic Offices off the Main street. Walk down hill from the Town Hall and the Civic Offices are on your right just after the Bank of Ireland.
James Joyce house, 1 Martello Terrace, ☎ 01 286-0568. May-Dec Th/Sa. Home of the author as a child, from 1887-1891. This house is overlooked by a Martello Tower, owned for a time by Bono (lead singer with Irish rock group U2) during the 1980's. It's a 5 minute walk from the town centre.
Walk the Cliff Walk from Bray to Greystones which takes around 1.30 hours and is a beautiful walk with wonderful views and wildlife, you may be lucky enough to see the feral goats. The cliff walk follows the route of the railway line, which was a remarkable feat of Victorian engineering. The tunnels run under Bray Head and were necessary because the Earl of Meath would not allow the railway to run through his lands at Kilruddery. The tunnels were designed by engineer Isambard Kingdom Brunel and the original brick ventilation shafts are still visible along the route of the cliff walk.
Go quad biking, clay pigeon shooting or paintballing; there are lots of activity specialists located in the surrounding Wicklow mountains.
Bray Harbour, (Turn left as you cross the bridge). Bray harbour is now a wildlife reserve where you can see literally dozens of Swans and some Chinese geese.
Festina Lente garden. This is a two acre restored Victorian walled garden on Old Connaught Avenue. Wonderful double herbaceous borders and vegetable garden.
Avoca Handweavers shop is expensive and located south of Bray, on the N11 at Kilmacanogue. They have a stylish range of homeware and accessories and a good garden shop. They also have quirky children's clothes and toys and an excellent food hall. The cafe is very popular at week-ends, plan to arrive before 12.30pm to avoid the queues.
Geoffrey Healy Pottery, Rocky Valley, Kilmacanogue. Limited edition and one-off hand thrown ceramic pieces.
A small Farmer's Market is held every Saturday outside Mermaid Centre on the Main Street, at the Town Hall end, from 10.30am approx. to 4.00pm. Excellent locally produced organic vegetables are available.
Campo de Fiori, 1 Albert Ave (behind the DART Station), ☎ 01 2764257. Authentic Italian Restaurant. Booking is essential, even mid-week. The best Spaghetti Cozze e Vongole, this side of Naples.
Betelnut Cafe, off Bray Main St (beside the Mermaid Arts Centre). daytime only. For coffee and light meals.
The DugOut Quinsboro. Road-huge fresh breakfast, good lunch, and a great early bird deal til 8:30PM of two courses and free wine or coffee for €15. There is a good deal for a burger or wings plus a pint for €7.50.
Takeaway Daata Tandoori. nice Pakistani food
Porterhouse. A dozen oysters for €8.
The Bistro, in the Heather House Hotel. Early bird special for €20.
The Harbour Bar, Strand Road (opposite Bray harbour), ☎ 01 2862274. One of the oldest, most well known and storied bars in Ireland. The bar is ranked as the "Best Bar in the World" by the Lonely Planet Guide. This bar has an amazingly diverse crowd and a unique look, the bar is littered with original antiques and interesting bric-a-brac, accumulated over 80 years, by three generations of the O'Toole family. The bar itself dates back to the mid 1800's. It offers a truly authentic Irish pub experience. The bar apparently served as the original model for all the worldwide "Irish" superpubs. Over the last century, the bar has been home to a who's who of both an international and national assortment of writers, film makers, actors and musicians. The stuffed moose head in the lounge was a gift from actor Peter O'Toole, when he was filming in Ardmore Studios, (then known as Silverpines) in the 1980's.
Duff's, Main Street (opposite Town Hall). from 6pm. No televisions and great pint.
The Porterhouse Bray, Strand Rd, ☎ 01 286 0668, . A brewpub with other locations in Dublin. Has several craft beers and advertises as Dublin's largest Irish-owned brewery.
If money is no object, then the Ritz-Carlton, Powerscourt Estate at Enniskerry.
Powerscourt is one of Ireland's most famous houses and gardens, and is located south of Bray in the landlord village of Enniskerry. The house was designed by Richard Castle in 1741, for Viscount Powerscourt, in the style of an imposing Palazzo. The landscaping was remodelled a century later in the fashionable Italian manner. The design is believed to be based on Villa Butera in Sicily. The Japanese garden is an Edwardian addition; look out also for the pet cemetery. The waterfall in the Powerscourt estate is the highest in Ireland at 121 m and there are lots of woodland walks.
Glendalough is located within Wicklow Mountains National Park. There are a number of early Christian monastic buildings, including several churches and a round tower. The area around the twin lakes is of outstanding natural beauty.
Glencree German war cemetery: approximately 10km from Enniskerry village, not easy to get to by public transport. There are 134 graves, mostly air force and navy personnel from World War II, very moving and a beautiful setting. Dr Hermann Görtz, a German spy, is also buried there. The single free-standing stone cross in the rear right hand corner of the cemetery was carved by him during his internment. Glencree Reconciliation Centre is across the road.
The Wicklow Way: explore all or part of Ireland's longest self-guided walking trail, at 127 km long. Expect the complete route to take 5-6 days. The Wicklow Way combines easy accessibility with a wide variety of scenic experiences, some of them in truly remote upland areas.