Touching distance from the madness of Temple Bar and the sins of Dublin is the beautiful coastline of County Wicklow, where the town of Bray offers the 24-hour tourists the perfect R & R opportunity, far away from Guinness, bad pub singers and stag and hen parties. Not that there is anything wrong with those, but sometimes time away is all about good food, great bars, empty beaches and fantastic hospitality. Welcome to Bray.
Hop on the DART or South Eastern Suburban line (€3.70 each way) from Connolly, Tara Street and Pearse and you will be there within 30 minutes. Home to national treasures as Gold-medal Olympian Katie Taylor, singer Sinead O’Connor and current crooning favourite Hozier, the town can also boast the best bar in the world, according to The Lonely Planet in the form of the Harbour Bar although the Porterhouse Brewery on Strand Road with its host of own-brews is a better place for an evening, serving a range of seven of their beers, dozens more, live music and great food. If you are lucky Hozier may be playing an impromptu set in either, if you are unlucky Miss O’Connor may be trying to win the karaoke. Other places to grab a beer or a glass of pop include the Hibernia Inn on Royal Marine Terrace and Holland’s on Main Street.
The main attraction that brings families to Bray is the wonderful beach – over a mile long and one of the cleanest in Ireland. On the esplanade there is a National Sea Life Centre which is very popular, whilst football fans will be pleased to know that Bray Wanderers currently play in the League of Ireland Premier Division at the rustic Carlisle Grounds, a two minute walk from the beach, past the ten-pin bowling centre.
Many people head to Bray as a base for walking. The most worn path is the one across the cliffs to Greystones, where the views are superb and perfect to blow away the cobwebs from the night before. Take some sensible (i.e not flip-flops) walking shoes, power on up the path at the end of the headland, passing under the cross at the summit of the hill (only 791ft above sea level if you fancy the hike up there) and away you go. Allow a good ninety minutes for the 6km walk, more if you like to take a photo or two. If you don’t fancy the walk back then hop on the train at Greystones for the seven minute trip back to Bray.
Hotel options are relatively limited. Most are located on the sea front such as the excellent Martello and the imposing looking Esplanade with its gothic turrets. As you start the costal walk at the South end of the bay you will pass the Bray Head Inn, which has seen better days and could be the inspiration for a Scooby Doo story. Another option a few minutes walk from the seafront is The Royal Hotel and Merrill Leisure Centre which is worth staying at if you fancy a swim.
Whilst many people will simply come to Bray for a few hours before heading back to the bright lights of Temple Bar, be different. Stay a bit longer, walk the beach, enjoy a decent cheap(er) dinner and of course, share a story or two with one of the locals. With a couple of dozen flights a day to the UK and a weakening Euro, there’s never been a better time to discover one of Ireland’s hidden gems.