Destination Report: Bray, Co. Wicklow

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Bray is a coastal town in north County Wicklow, Ireland. It is situated about 20 km south of Dublin city centre on the east coast. It has a population of 32,600 making it the ninth-largest urban area within Ireland.


Bray’s earliest history is shrouded in the mists of time, there are traces of Bronze age settlements in the area. There is also evidence of visits to Bray by Romans, possibly from Britain. The history of the town is also intertwined with the history of the Brabazon Family of Killruddery, Edward Baron Ardee was granted Killruddery by James lst in 1619.

However, the development of the town today is largely attributed to William Dargan a railway entrepreneur in the 19th Century. Thanks to the arrival of the railway in 1834, the bustling town developed as a popular seaside resort and became known as the “Brighton of Ireland”.

Bray was regarded as one of the most popular seaside resorts in Ireland for a long time. It was also popular with visitors from Wales and England due to the ferry services to nearby
Dun Laoghaire.

The town of Bray is beginning to shake off the past and Wicklow Council have been make big improvements to the amenities. Roads along the Esplanade have been narrowed to provide space for pedestrians and outdoor dining. Enhanced landscaping and seating provides more outdoor facilities for visitors to this traditional seaside town.

Work is moving ahead on Bray Central, a new leisure and dining area in the town centre. It will have a stylish Stella Cinema, and ten-lane bowling alley. Restaurants opening in Bray Central will include Elephant & Castle and Wowburger, both of the Pressup Group stable.

Bray South Promenade Beach

The beach is on the seafront of Bray Town and is a 10-minute walk from Bray Main Street and two minutes from Bray Dart Train Station. It stretches between Bray Head to the South and Bray Harbour to the North. The designated Blue Flag area makes up the Southern half and is 1,000m long. The first 20 metres of beach seaward is shingle and steep sloping. Closer to the water’s edge, the beach is gently sloping with sand and pebbles. It is a popular spot for swimming.

Bray Co. Wicklow destination report
Bray South Promenade Beach

Things to Do

Sea Life

The National Sea Life Centre is one of Ireland’s largest Marine and Freshwater Zoos and the only aquarium on the East Coast of Ireland. The aquarium on the Seafront in Bray is a perfect family fun day out!

Sea Life centre is completely indoors making it a perfect all-weather activity. Having responsibility for the welfare and well-being of over 1,100 underwater creatures.

The team at SEA LIFE is passionate about promoting and advancing the cause of the creatures of our oceans and rivers and their habitats. They engage in advocacy for conservation legislation, campaign for sustainable fishery policies, the breeding of endangered species, and cooperation with other like-minded organisations.

With 30 displays, a kids quiz trail, a colouring table, an indoor play area for younger children, and hourly public feeds of the animals, you won’t get bored. Tickets can be booked on line here.

Bray Co. Wicklow destination report

Killruddery House and Gardens

Killruddery House is a large country house on the southern outskirts of Bray in County Wicklow, Ireland, approximately 20 km south of Dublin. The present structure is a south-facing multi-bay mansion, originally dating from the 17th century, but remodelled and extended in 1820 in the Elizabethan style.

Killruddery is a great location and spot for a family day out when visiting Bray. With its extensive land and beautiful scenery, it is ideal for a picnic on a nice day.

Bray Co. Wicklow destination report
Killruddery House and Gardens

The Cliff Walk

There is a dedicated walk from Bray to Greystones south of the town. The walk hugs the coast above the railway line and provides far reaching views of Dublin Bay. It takes about 90 minutes to get to Greystones.

Where to Eat and Drink

Harbour Bar

Hailed as scruffy, wild and elegant, The Harbour Bar is a true destination pub with unmatched character. A décor is a mix of curios and mementoes collected over its one and a half-century history.

Established in 1872, as bar and undertakers and owned by the O’Toole family from 1932, The Harbour Bar changed hands when the Duggan family took over in 2013 with a pledge to preserve its unique character, honour its heritage and keep its appeal for music lovers from home and away.

Originally a terrace of fisherman’s houses, each of the many rooms makes The Harbour Bar a wonderland to wander through. Each offers something different for however visitors want to soak up the atmosphere.

Bray Co. Wicklow destination report
Harbour Bar, Bray

Butler & Barry

A Gastrobar, unlike any other, Butler & Barry will leave you wanting more. From the most enviable location on the east coast, its guests enjoy exceptional food and drinks served with stunning ocean views.

The bar is run by highly skilled and well-trained drink experts. Their team has a massive love and passion for supplying mouthwatering drinks to customers. Creating gobsmacking cocktails, martinis, margaritas and more with their flavour of interest, passion and experience. You won’t be let down by the team.

Bray Co. Wicklow destination report
Butler & Barry, Bray

Pink Salt, Main Street

The aim of Pink Salt Restaurant is to offer a new kind of dining experience and hospitality. They are sure that you will feel the authentic Indian food taste and quality.

Pink Salt follow the traditional way of cooking, and carefully choosing and handling the ingredients. Their team is committed to introducing new dishes from time to time. The Award-winning chef is ready to cook the dishes the way you like.

Bray Co. Wicklow destination report

Fish and Chips

No visit to Bray would be complete with out the traditional seaside fish and chips. There is nothing like the smell of sea air laced with tang of chip shop vinegar. Pick up a portion of fish and chips in the Seaside Fast Food chipper or Cassoni’s Takeaway.

Ice Cream Parlours

And a visit to the seaside would not be the same without having an ice-cream and in Bray you will be spoiled for choice. It is not just the usual 99s, but there are also lots of different flavours from Teddy’s, Maud’s, Rainbows and traditional Italian ices from Ginos.

Where to Stay

Firefly Hotel

The first automatic hotel accommodation of its kind in Ireland, Firefly Hotel is the no-delay place to stay to make the most of even the shortest getaway break. Without staff on-site, this innovative secure self-check-in ensures efficiency, with no waiting in queues to collect or drop off keys.

I stayed in Firefly this past weekend and it was quite unusual not to be greeted by a member of staff. It felt more like an AirBnB rental for the weekend. Before I arrived, a text message with the code for the main door and lockbox at the entrance arrived with details of where to find the keycard for the room.

The hotel has a unique interior, with unusual lights on the wall, many pieces of art are dotted through the halls there are plenty of plants. It was a notably modern and warm environment

I was staying on the top floor where the bigger rooms are and mine was huge. The king bed was comfortable and had nice quality linens. This room was a triple with a single bed and there were tea and coffee facilities included.

There was no restaurant but as Firefly is located next to all the amenities of Bray, there’s no shortage of places to eat and drink.

My overall experience in Firefly felt warm and different. It’s definitely a comfortable hotel with a unique twist and I would recommend trying it on your next visit to Bray. Prices are from €109 per night at weekends and from €80 per night midweek. Book here.

Bray Co. Wicklow destination report
Entrance at Firefly Hotel

The Martello Hotel

This hotel on Bray Esplanade has breathtaking views across the Irish Sea and sits at the foot of Bray Head. It offers an unmatched combination of gastropub dining and comfortable accommodation in a cheerful and vibrant setting. 

The Martello Hotel Bray has 25 en-suite hotel bedrooms and 19 self-catering apartments. It is just a few minutes walk from the DART station, and 30 minutes from Dublin City Centre.

Bray Co. Wicklow destination report
The Martello Hotel, Bray
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