An outstanding day hike trail for both city-dwellers and rural residents alike. The walk along the sea between Bray and Greystones mixes both the scenic pastoral beauty of the Irish coastland with outstanding restaurant choices, coffee shops, playgrounds, and other amenities that those living in the countryside or city would travel hours to enjoy.
On my brother’s recent visit I needed to bring him to a morning business meeting in Sandyford, Dublin. I decided this would be a great opportunity to hike the Bray to Greystones cliff trail I had heard about. We decided to invite my dad and make a father-sons day of it.
We left Portlaoise around 11:00am and made the quick trip to Sandyford in about 1 hour. My father and I dropped my brother off at his appointment at noon and went and had a quick coffee together. Around 1pm we collected my brother and made our way to Bray. Traffic was no problem at all as we were travelling outside of rush hour, travel to Bray took just under 20 minutes.
We arrived at the beach to see they were setting up for a carnival right at the beach. I told my brother that I had been to Bray beach a couple weeks ago with my children and my wife and I loved it because of the playground that our 4 year old and 2 year old loved, the icecream stand, and the great toilets (restroom facilities) right on the beach. We also appreciated that parking on cost 30 cents an hour and we need only carry our 3 kids and bags a couple hundred feet to set ourselves up on the beach. The only downside on that day was the slightly excessive wind.
As my brother, father and I got out of the car the sun was shining and breeze was gentle. I was excited for a great hike, but we were also very hungry. We turned around and there was a nice look restaurant. We walked into Butler and Barry. The staff were friendly and the décor was clean and relaxing. The best part was the gigantic window we got to sit next to overlooking the beach. The prices were reasonable. My dad ordered buffalo wings and I order chicken. We were both very happy with our orders. My brother ordered nachos and was not a big fan of what he thought was canned cheese and chili, but none of the food went to waste. Again, just sitting next to the windows was a great find, particularly if you were visiting the beach on a cold or windy day.
After our lunch I said we should drive up to the Bray Head parking lot a couple kilometers up the beach. I thought the parking might be free and that it might decrease the length of our hike. We arrived at the Bray Head parking lot and I didn’t see a parking meter anywhere so I assumed I didn’t need to pay, so I didn’t. [I never did get a parking ticket, so I continue to assume that the paring there is free, but I make no promises to you.]
The parking lot was adjacent to the trail so we set off [SEE THE MAP]. I believe the sign we saw at the start said the hike was 5.5 km to Greystones. That was quite a bit less than I had read on the internet, which had said the hike was 7.5km. I wasn’t going to complain. The trail at the start of our hike was a slight almost unmentionable slope and was nicely paved like a sidewalk. I thought, hey this would be a perfect hike for my wife and I to take our children on with our double wide buggy, it shouldn’t be an issue. In the first 500 meters or so we probably passed a dozen people in groups of 2 to 3. It wasn’t long before I realized this WOULD NOT BE A GOOD HIKE FOR A BUGGY. The pavement disappeared and it became a dirt track with some sections only wide enough for one person at a time. I suppose we’ll have to wait a few more years before taking my children.
The hiking that day was outstanding. The sun was shining and the breeze was not harsh, but cooling. There were others on the trail, but just enough so that you said “hi” occasionally, but never felt claustrophobic. The views of the Irish sea were beautiful, particularly of the coastal towns of Bray and Greystones in the distance. We saw a seal and dozens of sea birds and enjoyed the occasional passing of a DART train. There were times as we hiked that the theme song from Jurassic Park came into my head as we were surrounded by green hills and huge ferns all around us. As we approached Greystones and walked through some fields of Barley I was thinking of the Sting singing “Fields of God.” You know it’s a good hike when it brings songs to your heart.
As Greystones came into view we were surprised to see an icecream truck parked next to the trail. We wondered how he drove there. We realized he must have done some serious off-roading along someone’s field in order to find his spot. It was a great spot and I’m sure he did some good business. We bought two waters for 1.50 euro each.
As we entered Greystones I was sad to see that the trail had become much less scenic. The were constructing dozens of homes and in order to block of the trail from the construction site they installed 15 foot tall metal fences all along the trail. It felt like I was walking through a maximum security prison for a while. We finally meandered our way out of the construction and entered Greystones town center. It was not easy to find the DART train station which I knew we needed to get to in order to get back to Bray. Thankfully I had my smartphone and was able to use google Maps. I didn’t realize that it was on the opposite side of town, which added a few extra kilometers onto our hike.
In Greystones there are some great shops and restaurants. One restaurant I have heard a lot about, but have not yet gone to is The Happy Pear. I’ve heard the food is good AND HEALTHY. We actually walked right by it just a few hundred feet from the DART train station. Inside the DART station we were able to get our Single Tickets to Greystones for something like 2.40 euro each. A great deal! The train to Greystones is on our side of the tracks going north to Malahide. They titled it something like “All stops to Malahide.”
We got on the train easily enough and in a matter of a few short minutes were back in Bray. The views from the train were beautiful, but brief. What was surprising was how often we were inside the train tunnels carved into the cliffs along the sea. For what seemed like much of the time, the view was simply darkness.
On arriving back to Bray we realized that this train station too was on the opposite side of town again adding a couple extra kilometers onto our walk, thankfully the whole walk was simply along the paved walkway next to the beach. We enjoyed it, though we were starting to get tired. One of the memorable moments of this section of the walk was watching a guy floating in the air in some kind of cross between a parachute and a hang-glider. I kept wondering where he would land, but he never did. He seemed happy to just stay up in the sky enjoying his view of Bray and the beautiful seaside.
We arrived back at our car. Tired but accomplished and energized by a beautiful hike with great company. I am sure I will be back again. How about you?