Walking the cliffs of County Wicklow

Ryan Duggins | Live the World

November 23, 2022

Wicklow, the closest county south of Dublin, has some of the country’s most beautiful inland natural sites, from the cascading Powerscourt Waterfall to the backdrop of the Wicklow mountains. Tourists and locals would come to this place to select from an array of areas to breath easier and relieve themselves from the stresses of city life, or to place a less-noisy adventure on the travel itinerary. As excursions go, there aren’t many you can do in 3-hours and be taken aback as much as you would through the walkway between Bray and Greystones that flanks around the Irish Sea.

© iStock/JordiCarrioJamila

The walk is roughly 7km and starts near the pier of Bray, the coastal capital of the county. A short train ride from Dublin, Bray would be a popular day trip without the walk itself, with fish and chips being eaten by the sea by hundreds of people every weekend. The walk loops around Bray Head and across the cliff edges, giving you an excellent vantage point for views to the ocean and out to the cities. You’ll need good footwear, a waterproof coat (In Ireland, you just never know) and a coffee at the Boat House Coffee Dock to pick up some fuel to throw you up the initial climb to the walk.

As you ascend the side of the cliffs, within ten minutes, you’ll get views back to Bray that allow you to scope the entire town. You’ll then have a choice to continue along the path or to take a right to scale up to the Bray Head Cross. It might seem steep to take the latter, but once accomplished, you’ll be able to see the Wicklow Mountains painted across the skyline. You’ll be almost 800ft in the air though so make sure the wind doesn’t take you, but on a mild afternoon, there just isn’t a better way to soak in a landscape.

View from Bray Head - ©AlanShortt

Heading back down to the pathway, we snake around the Irish Sea, with just a large fence between you and the ocean. For the first hour, as you dip and dive across the plain, you’ll still just see blue in the distance with the walk taking its’ time to wind back to a narrow path to the next town. Once the walk levels out, you’ll be neighboured by occasional train whistling through the cliffs.

The single-track rail was built almost 200 years ago straight through Bray head. It’s been amended and changed several times since its creation for safety reasons, with trains shuttling underneath you as they disappear through tunnels crafted within the hills. Watching the trains disappear and reappear in-and-out of the mountains, with no visible trace once gone, is a warm experience for those with a romantic imagination.

© iStock/eldarsverdlov

Coming out from the cliffs, the path settles to a steady walk where the Greystones harbour would be in your sights. Easier on the feet, this part of the walk takes you through what is locally known as the Fields of Gold. You’ll pass through a wall of bright yellow flowers and tall grass that peaks above your head and will wave in the wind on a blustery day, giving the field a feeling that it's alive and swaying with the air. Exiting the path, Greystones welcomes you in.

After that walk, the Beach House would be the first sign of non-walkers since Bray, and thankfully it does a great pint of Guinness for you to enjoy. Resting your feet on the outside terrace and contemplating your photos with others is what the end of this walk is all about. Well, almost.

A ten-minute walk to the main street in Greystones you’ll find The Burnaby, a restaurant just opposite the train station that is the perfect lunch before you jump back on the train to wherever it is that your feet will be grateful to rest after trekking this visually lovely cliff walk.

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