- For other places with the same name, see Bray (disambiguation).
Bray is a small harbour town at the north edge of County Wicklow, bordering Dublin. It grew up rapidly from 1854 when the railway arrived, becoming a seaside resort and fashionable suburb of the city. It's now mainly a commuter town, with a population in 2016 of 32,600.
There's a small TIC in the civic offices on Main Street, open Tu-F 10:00-13:00, 14:00-16:30.
Although it's in Wicklow, Bray feels like part of the city, similar to Dún Laoghaire north across the county boundary. The origin of its name is unknown: brí means "hill", like Scots "brae" or Celtic "bree". That origin isn't accepted but might as well stand until someone comes up with a better one.
Nor is this the home of the "Vicar of Bray": he's a fictional character in a 17th C satirical song, from Bray in Berkshire, England.
Dart trains run every 10-20 min from Malahide and Howth through central Dublin (Connolly, Tara St and Pearse stations), the southern suburbs, Dún Laoghaire and Dalkey to Bray; a few continue south to Greystones. Trains run 06:00-23:30 taking 50 min from city centre to Bray. The entire line is 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.
From Belfast, Drogheda or Sligo, change at Connolly for the Dart train. From most other cities (eg Galway, Limerick or Cork) trains run to Dublin Heuston, take the tram to 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.
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.
The main coast highway is M11 / N11, dual carriageway throughout, which runs from the edge of Dublin south to Bray, Wicklow Town, Arklow, Gorey, Enniscorthy, Wexford and Rosslare. No surprise, it gets very busy in rush hour.
By contrast the east-west roads across the mountains are narrow, winding and scenic, and more likely to be congested on fine weekends. From the west eg Cork or Limerick, it's simpler to follow the motorway to M50 outside Dublin then join M11.
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.
- 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) was built to defend the harbour against Napoleon but doesn't look like it could repel the Muppets. It's the only survivor of three such towers built here in 1804/5. 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), ☏ . 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, ☏ . 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.
- 2 Festina Lente garden, Old Connaught Ave, Bray A98 F702, ☏ . 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 Oldcourt Castle is the teetering stump of a 15th C tower house. It's becoming unsafe so you may find it fenced off.
- 4 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.
- 5 Kilruddery House, Southern Cross Road, Kilruddery Desmesne East, ☏ , ✉ email@example.com. 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.
- 6 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.
- 7 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.
- 8 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.
- 9 Powerscourt House and Gardens: see Enniskerry.
- 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 [dead link] is in Sept at Killruddery House. The next event is probably 18-20 Sept 2021, tbc.
- 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 12-13 June 2021.
- And check the online events calendar for over a dozen others.
- Farmers & Food Market is on Saturday 09:00-16:00 at the south end of Bray Main St, between Mermaid Centre and Town Hall.
- Lots of convenience stores in town centre, the closest big supermarket is SuperValu on Castle St just north of the river bridge. It's open M-Sa 07:30-21:00, Su 08:00-20:00.
- Avoca Handweavers have many outlets, including one at Kilmacanogue off junction 8 of N11. This also stocks homeware and has a garden shop. The cafe is very popular, it's in a Victorian fern house. Avoca is open daily 09:00-18:00.
- Betelnut Cafe, off Bray Main St (within Mermaid Arts Centre), ☏ . M-Sa 08:00-18:00. Friendly place for coffee and light meals.
- Daata Tandoori, Strand Rd (next to railway station), ☏ . 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), ☏ . 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.
- Harbour Bar, 1 Strand Road (by Bray harbour), ☏ . 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.
- 1 Esplanade Hotel, Strand Rd, ☏ . Traditional beachfront hotel, showing its age but clean and friendly.
- Strand Hotel, 73 Strand Rd (next to Esplanade Hotel), ☏ . 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 decide 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, ☏ . 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.
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.
- Enniskerry for the magnificent gardens at Powerscourt; the house itself has become a hotel. There's also a spectacular waterfall.
- Glendalough for the extensive early Christian and Norman monastic buildings, and Ireland's most imposing round tower, in outstanding valley scenery.
- Wicklow Way is a long-distance hiking route across the line of mountains. Multiple access points, the closest are near Enniskerry and Roundwood.
- Dublin exerts an irresistible magnetic pull to the north.
|Routes through Bray|
|Dublin ← ←||N S||→ Wicklow Town → Wexford|