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For other places with the same name, see Bray (disambiguation).
Esplanade, Bray, with views of Bray Head

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.

Understand[edit]

  • Bray Tourist Office (within the Civic Offices off the Main street. Walk down the hill from the Town Hall and the Civic Offices are on your right just after the Bank of Ireland).

Get in[edit]

By train[edit]

Dart trains run every 10 mins or less from Malahide and Howth through central Dublin (Connolly, Tara St & Pearse stations), the southern suburbs, Dun Laoghaire and Dalkey to Bray; some continue south to Greystones. All these stations are within the Dublin "short hop zone" so the standard flat fare is €3.30 adult single, €6.25 day return, €2.40 single with LEAP card.

A further 3-5 mainline trains per day call on the route between Dublin Connolly, Arklow, Gorey, Wexford and Rosslare, which has ferries from Fishguard and Pembroke.

From Belfast, Newry, Drogheda or Sligo, change at Connolly for the Dart train. From other cities (eg Galway, Limerick or Cork) trains run to Dublin Heuston, take the tram to reach Connolly or Bus 145 to Bray.

Bray railway station is near town centre at the north end of the Esplanade. It's called 1 Daly for Edward Daly (1891-1916), executed for his part in the Easter Rising.

By bus[edit]

Aircoach 702 runs hourly between Dublin Airport, Bray and Greystones.

Dublin Bus 145 runs between Heuston Station and Bray every 10 mins, taking an hour via city centre Southside, Donnybrook and Cabinteely. It continues to Ballywaltrim.

St Kevin's Bus from Dublin picks up from Bray daily around noon and goes via Roundwood to Glendalough monastic site, 40 min. Beware at weekends it may run full from Dublin, but there are extra runs in summer. It sets off back around 16:30. Although it's designed for day trips (with four hours to explore Glendalough), you can take it as a point-to-point bus. Adult single €13, return €20.

Inter-city buses bypass Bray so you have to travel into central Dublin and come out again.

By car[edit]

Bray is easily accessible by road from Dublin and south from Arklow or Wexford. N11 links Dublin city centre with Bray, and the M50 allows easy access to other major cities.

From the south, the N11 stretches as far as south County Wexford linking up all major urban areas including Rosslare, Gorey, Wexford, Enniscorthy, Arklow, Wicklow and Greystones.

To the west, several roads cross the Wicklow Mountains to towns such as Tullow, Carlow and Kilkenny.

Get around[edit]

Dublin Bus 84 runs north from Newcastle via Kilcoole, Greystones, Killruddery House, Bray, Bride's Glen (for Luas tram) and Cabinteely to Blackrock Dart station. It runs every 30 mins. You can also use the DART train between Bray and Greystones.

Bus 184 also runs by Killruddery House.

Bus 185 runs every 30 min between Bray, Enniskerry village and Powerscourt, taking 25 min.

See[edit]

Bray Town Hall is now a McDonald's
  • 1 Bray Harbour is a pleasant little marina at the outlet of the River Dargle. The mute swans, ducks and geese will mob anyone who looks like they have food to donate. The weary Martello Tower just south (nowadays private property) doesn't look like it could defend the harbour against the Muppets let alone Napoleon Bonaparte. It's the only survivor of three such towers built here in 1804/5 against French attack. One was by the Esplanade Hotel, the other was by Ravenswell Convent, but they both had soft foundations and succumbed to storm and sea circa 1870-80.
  • The Esplanade or Promenade stretches 1.5 km south from the harbour to Bray Head, lined with Victorian houses and 20th C amusement arcades. The beach is shingle and sand: you can swim or paddle at the south end, but the north end suffers from erosion and pollution. See "Do" for walks continuing across Bray Head towards Greystones.
  • Sea Life Aquarium, Strand Rd (Esplanade just south of railway station), +44 1 286 6939. Daily 10:00-15:00. Variety of marine and freshwater habitats, touchpools, feeding, talks. Adult €11.25, child €10.
  • Main Street is mostly unremarkable low-rise; Holy Redeemer RC Church is here. At the south end of the street where it forks into Killarney Rd and Vevay Rd is the former Town Hall, a cod-Tudor confection. It was built in 1882/3 as a market hall but became municipal offices in the 1940s. Those have relocated to the Mermaid Civic Centre, and since 1997 the building has been a McDonald's fast food outlet.
  • Churches in town worth a look are Holy Redeemer (1792, RC) on Main Street, Christ Church on Church St (1863, C of I) and the Methodist church on Eglington Rd (1864). And see below for the Coptic church.
  • Ardmore Studios, Herbert Rd, +353 1 286 2971. Closed to visits. The National Film Studios of Ireland: Braveheart, Saving Private Ryan and My Left Foot were filmed here. That's why battles in Normandy and medieval Scotland are fought in a landscape with an uncanny resemblance to Ireland, and the same extras get killed that got killed twice 20 minutes ago - must keep costs down! Ardmore is still in business but in 2018 was sold to Olcott Entertainment and doesn't offer tours. Ardmore Studios (Q4788208) on Wikidata Ardmore Studios on Wikipedia
  • 2 Festina Lente garden, Old Connaught Ave, Bray A98 F702, +353 1 272 0704. M-Sa 09:00-17:00, Su 11:00-17:00. This is primarily an equestrian centre, but most visitors come for the two acre restored Victorian walled garden. Wonderful double herbaceous borders and vegetable garden. Donation.
  • 3 Bray Head rises to 241 m / 791 ft at the south end of the Esplanade. There are several paths up, closest being via the steps cut in the rock by the Esplanade, then up through a gully onto the headland. Raheen-a-Cluig on the north slope is the ruin of a 12th / 13th C church, partly restored in the 18th, while the concrete cross near the summit was erected in 1950. The Head falls to the sea in slate cliffs, which are rock-climbing routes. Watch for fulmars, rock doves, peregrines and other seabirds, plus if you're lucky the feral goats. These were domestic goats that went wild centuries ago; both males and females have horns and beards. The single-track railway towards Greystones and Wicklow teeters along the seaward slope, with ventilation shafts above its tunnels. Designed by Isambard Kingdom Brunel, the line was costly to build and maintain, but it had to take this precarious route because the Earl of Meath wouldn't allow it to cross his Killruddery estate.
Kilruddery House
  • 4 Kilruddery House, Southern Cross Road, Kilruddery Desmesne East, +353 1 2863405, . Apr-Oct Tu-Su 09:30-18:00, house tours at 12:00, 13:30, 15:00. This vast pile has been the home of the Brabazons, Earls of Meath, for 350 years. The house was started in 1651 but extensively remodeled in neo-Tudor style in 1820-30, then scaled back in the 1960s. The formal garden (inspired by Versailles) was laid out in 1682, and is one of the few such gardens to survive the fashion for romantic naturalistic landscaping. The twin canals, known as the Long Ponds, are 152 m in length. House and grounds are often used as a film or TV location and may be booked out for weddings. House & garden adult €15.50, garden alone €8.50. Killruddery House on Wikipedia
  • 5 Fassaroe Cross or St Valery's Cross is a High Cross probably from the 12th C; similar crosses in the area look to have been carved by the same mason. It's 1.42 m tall, of granite with a "sash" of quartz. It originally stood at Ballyman some 1.6 km north but is now by the Berryfield Lane roundabout west of town just beyond the M11 junction.
  • 6 Greystones is the smaller resort south of Bray Head. It has a marina and a few pubs and cafes, but little to see: the ruins of Kindlestown Castle 1 km inland aren't worth seeking out. You'd probably only come for the sake of the coast walk from Bray then take the bus back, or vice versa.
  • 7 Great Sugar Loaf is the 501 m / 1644 ft mountain south of Bray towards Kilmacanogue. It looks volcanic but it's Cambrian quartzite. That means firm walking trails: the usual ascent is from the south, starting at the Red Lane car park on L1031.
  • See Enniskerry for 8 Powerscourt House and Gardens.

Do[edit]

Pope Shenouda III opened Coptic churches worldwide, including at Bray
  • The Cliff Walk from Bray to Greystones takes about 90 min. Follow the Esplanade south then take the steps onto Bray Head, over the top then return to the coast into Greystones.
  • Attend a Coptic Orthodox service at St Mary and St Demiana Church at The Pines, off Herbert Rd. The exterior is nondescript and modern - as Ireland's oldest Coptic church it was only opened in 1994, by the Pope himself. That of course was Pope Shenouda III, who oversaw a worldwide expansion of the Coptic church. It's the interior and the ceremony you come for, on Sunday 08:30-11:30. Coptic Orthodox liturgy has changed little in 2000 years and is sung in a language akin to ancient Egyptian that long predates Arabic, though it's transcribed into Greek.
  • Go quad biking, clay pigeon shooting or paintballing; there are lots of activity specialists located in the surrounding Wicklow mountains.
  • Bray Jazz Festival is on the early May holiday weekend. But the 2020 event was scrubbed even before covid loomed, and it's not known if it will return in 2021.
  • Bray Air Display is in late July. The 2020 event was cancelled and the next is probably 21-22 July 2021, tbc.
  • Killruddery Silent Film Festival is in Sept at Killruddery House. The next event is 19-21 Sept 2020.
  • Hell & Back is a series of endurance and obstacle races held in October on Killruddery Estate. Hills, bogs, stuff to clamber over and through, and much mud. There are various age-groups and distances. The next event is 1-4 Oct 2020.
  • And check the online events calendar for over a dozen others.

Buy[edit]

  • Avoca Handweavers (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 12:30 to avoid the queues.
  • Geoffrey Healy Pottery, Rocky Valley, Kilmacanogue. Limited edition and one-off hand thrown ceramic pieces.
  • Farmers' & Food Market is on Saturday 09:00-16:00 at the south end of Bray Main St, between Mermaid Centre and Town Hall.

Eat[edit]

Great Sugar Loaf
  • Betelnut Cafe, off Bray Main St (within Mermaid Arts Centre), +353 1 276 4728. M-Sa 08:00-18:00. Friendly place for coffee and light meals.
  • Daata Tandoori, Strand Rd (next to railway station), +353 1 286 3006. M-Th 17:00-22:00, F-Su 16:00-22:00. Good Pakistani cuisine. Tasty and reasonably priced though vegetarians have limited choice. They have another branch at Greystones.
  • Others clustered around the station are Platform Pizza Bar, Ocean Bar & Grill, Carpediem, and Barracuda.
  • Hungry Monk, 1 Church Rd, Greystones (100 m north of Greystones railway station), +353 1 287 5759. M-Sa 17:00-22:00, Su 12:30-21:00. Excellent little first floor restaurant with daily blackboard specials.
  • Happy Pear is a health food store with cafe in Greystones, on Church Rd 100 m north of Hungry Monk. It's open daily 09:00-18:00.

Drink[edit]

  • Harbour Bar, 1 Strand Road (by Bray harbour), +353 1 286 2274. Daily 13:00-23:00. Famous pub so it's on the tourist circuit, but deservedly so - the Harbour continues to score highly for drink, food, service and ambiance. It's a knock-through of a row of fishermen's cottages, so it has a series of rooms each with their own character: main bar, snug, live lounge, good room, beer garden, and upstairs. Often has live music, dog-friendly.
  • Duff's, Main St A98 Y2F3 (opposite Town Hall). No televisions and a great quiet pint among cycling memorabilia.
  • Porterhouse Bray, Strand Rd (south of station). M-Th 16:00-23:30, F 12:00-00:30, Sa 12:00-02:30, Su 12:00-23:00. Lively bar and eating place along the Strand, can get raucous.

Sleep[edit]

  • 1 Esplanade Hotel, Strand Rd, +353 1 286 2056. Traditional beachfront hotel, showing its age but clean and friendly.
  • [dead link] Strand Hotel, 73 Strand Rd (next to Esplanade Hotel), +353 1 548 2960. Comfy small hotel in mansion built by the parents of Oscar Wilde, and inherited by him in 1876. Each of the 10 rooms is named for one of his works, so think carefully whether you want to be An Ideal Husband or Lady Windermere's Fan. Presumably the Canterville Ghost can access all rooms. B&B double €100.
  • 2 Royal Hotel, 26 Quinsborough Rd, +353 1 286 2935. Boxy business hotel with 125 rooms, well run and right in town centre. Includes use of Merrill Spa and leisure club. Park at Dargle behind hotel, €5 for 24 hours. B&B double €100.
  • Splurge at Powerscourt at nearby Enniskerry.

Connect[edit]

Bray has a good mobile and 4G signal with all Irish carriers. As of Aug 2020, 5G has reached town centre with Vodafone, but not yet with Eir or Three.

Go next[edit]

  • Enniskerry — for the Powerscourt Estate which 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 — 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.
  • 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.
Routes through Bray
DublinM50 motorway IE.png  N M11 motorway IE.png S  Wicklow TownWexford


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