Bray to Greystones Cliff Walk

Playground Earth | Bray's Cliff Walk to Graystones

Sometimes you encounter a fork in the road that you weren’t expecting, leaving you with the need to make a snap decision. Left or right? The low road or the high road?

As we were sorting out which fork-in-the-road to take we were greeted by Ann, a vivacious local with the energy of a twenty-something. With a cheery hello and a firm Irish handshake she explained the differences in our two options. The “low” path would put us closer to the sea below and end in Greystones while the “high” path would have us further up in the hills with more expansive views. Then she asked… “would you like some company?” Of course we would. Come to pass, she and her husband walk the path to Greystone, and back, several times a week. Weather permitting of course.

We walked together for 15 minutes chatting about her and her husband’s travels, their plans for Christmas and the walk we were about to take. Just before she turned for home she questioned what we were doing in Ireland at “the worst possible time of year.” We found her question amusing as it was a sunny day and the temperature promised to hit 50 degrees! We told her that we loved this weather and with that she responded with a sly, corner-of-the-mouth smile and a hug as she bid us farewell.

We chose the low road.

Playground Earth | Bray's Cliff Walk | Trail
Playground Earth | Bray's Cliff Walk | Trail
Thus began our 4 hour round trip of the Bray’s Head Cliff walk which follows a portion of the East Coast of Ireland from the charming seaside town of Bray to Greystone.The mountainside hugging trail boasts some of the most dramatic, and vertiginous views of the Irish Sea, and is one of the most hiked paths in this region. As we dipped and climbed and dipped and climbed again we quickly became familiar as to why. It was simply breathtaking. With ridiculously steep views to the sea below you wonder who had the nerve to lay the railroad hundreds of yards beneath us much less carve out this fantastic path.
Playground Earth | Bray's Cliff
Playground Earth | Bray's Cliff

It is widely acknowledged that this particular stretch of railroad is considered one of Ireland’s greatest engineering marvels. Throughout its history it has encountered its share of troubles, not the least of which was, a portion of the completed railbed needed to be moved closer inland. Due to some serious miscalculations, a stretch of the railbed wound up being too close to a rock outcropping dangerously exposing it to erosion and the crashing sea below.

Solution?

Blast a second tunnel closer inland and reset the railbed. Problem solved. It sounds simple enough but considering the precipitous heights and rough terrain, it was anything but easy. Today that section of the tracks has two tunnels leading the first time hiker to wonder…why are there two tunnels?

Playground Earth | Bray's Cliff Walk | Train Tunnels
Playground Earth | Bray's Cliff Walk | Train Tunnels
Playground Earth | Bray's Cliff Walk
Playground Earth | Bray's Cliff Walk

Our mid-week hike was made all the more pleasant by the fact that there were very few hikers on the trail. With a light breeze, the early winter sun on our faces and the salty fragrance of the Irish Sea we were in hikers paradise. The multi-colored rocky cliffs, resplendent in shades of green, purple, red and gray tumble into the sea supporting massive colonies of large cormorants. With their deep, guttural call they were amusing to watch as they plunged headlong into the sea in search of another meal.

The two-hour mark found us at our destination where we stopped in the Beach House for a snack and a well-deserved glass of locally brewed beer. Evidently, we hit the right spot as the family-owned restaurant has been providing a warm and welcome meeting place for locals, tourists, fishermen, hikers and hill walkers since 1850! An all-around great find.

Playground Earth | Bray Afternoon
Playground Earth | Bray Afternoon

With the sun at our backs, the return to Bray was as gorgeous as the walk to Greystones. The late afternoon, sunbathed hillsides, were now deep yellow, gold and maroon as they lay sleeping until spring turns them every shade of green once again. Grazing sheep appeared like tiny cotton balls in the upper reaches of the hills.

Final stop…the Bray promenade. 

Homeward bound for the day. A good meal awaits.