Travel Writing by Cory Hanson

Bray Head and Greystones Cliff Walk

 

Dublin’s coastal commuter train line—the DART—has some flaws as a comprehensive public transport system, but it does offer easy, cheap access to a number of hikes, walks, and coastal villages just beyond City Centre.

[RELATED: A Hike on Howth Head and A Day on Dalkey Island]

Of the hill walks on the DART line, the Bray Head Cliff Walk is the most accessible and relaxed; more ambitious hikers can add to the distance and difficulty of the walk with an amble up Bray Head for a great view of the Dublin and Wicklow coast.

From the Bray boardwalk, the bulk of Bray Head is unmistakable, jutting out into the Irish Sea at the south end of the village. At the top, you might be able to see the white crucifix—then again, you might not, it looks like a little stick even in clear conditions. On Good Friday, devout Catholics make a pilgrimage walk up the hill, reciting the Stations of the Cross as they go.

Bray Head Cross Wicklow Ireland

Bray Head Cross[Tweet this image]

The way up from the seafront is steep, but manageable for fit walkers. From the peak near the concrete cross, look inland to the Dublin and Wicklow Mountains—the slightly saggy, pointy peak is that of the Great Sugarloaf—and to the north to see Dalkey Island, Killiney Hill, and the twin smokestacks of the Poolbeg Power Station in Dublin’s Docklands in the distance.

Bray Head Mountain View Wicklow Ireland

Bray Head Mountain View[Tweet this image]

The Bray Head trail can be taken as a loop back to the other side of the village, but those looking to get on their way to Greystones can retrace their steps to the trailhead and divert onto the 7 km (4 1/3 mile) Cliff Walk. This seaside path follows that of the coastal railway line—look for informational signboards about the construction of this, part of one of Europe’s oldest commuter railways. The trail is hillier, rockier, and more scenic on the first few kilometers out of Bray, with views of the rocky shores and train tunnels below.

A Train Tunnel Bray Wicklow Ireland

A Train Tunnel[Tweet this image]

As you pass the halfway point of the trail heading south, it flattens out and moves inland from the cliffs. Nearing Greystones, you’ll begin a long, gradual descent back to sea level and through farm fields and pastureland.

The Trail Flattens Bray Wicklow Ireland

The Trail Flattens[Tweet this image]

The Descent into Greystones Wicklow Ireland

The Descent into Greystones[Tweet this image]

The easy Cliff Walk and moderate, optional Bray Head climb aren’t as wild and wooly as the secluded beaches and bogs on the Howth trails, and ambitious adventure-seekers will do better looking for higher peaks inland. (Maybe the Dublin Mountains or the Great Sugarloaf.) This walk is recommended for those looking for a relaxing, convenient walk on a firm (not muddy) trail on the Irish Sea coast with a well-deserved drink or snack waiting in a quiet seaside village at the end.

Nuts and Bolts

  • The DART serves Bray and Greystones—the seaside villages on both ends of the walk. The trail can be done in either direction, but I recommend hopping off the train in Bray. From the train station, walk down the well-kept boardwalk towards the Bray Head mini mountain. If hiking to the summit of the head, follow the signs going inland and uphill; if staying on the smooth, easy Cliff Walk trail, follow the paved path just above the train tracks.
  • In Greystones, check the time of the next DART departure and relax on the cute little harbor or walk down the small main street before catching the northbound train back to Dublin—making sure to get a window seat facing the craggy coast.
  • If visiting in summer, try to catch some of the festivities of Bray Summerfest. The boardwalk carnival rides, live music, air show, and fireworks always draw a good crowd of Dubliners.

 

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