These two towns are on the coast south of Dublin and there is a popular walking track along the cliffs between them which we walked on Saturday.
To get to Bray is relatively simple – we walked from our apartment for about 20 minutes to the Clontarf Rd DART station (Dublin Area Rapid Transit) and caught the south-bound train which runs about every 20 minutes. Some 50 minutes later we were in Bray, ready to start our walk which is about 7 km from one train station to the next.
Bray was known as the “Brighton” of Ireland as it was where wealthy Dubliners came during the summer months. History is all around you – the ubiquitous James Joyce spent some of his early years here and the Strand Hotel on the promenade was built by Oscar Wilde’s parents.
In this part of the country, the cliffs rise up steeply from the coast, yet below the walking track, a railway line has also been carved out of the cliffside. In fact, the track was built to assist with the construction of the railway between 1847 and 1856.
This rail line is apparently the most expensive part of the Irish rail network to maintain, partly because of the ever-present danger of rock falls and landslides from the unstable slate and shale cliffs and we saw many instances of rock control along the line, as you can see below. The consultant designer for this stretch of line was Isambard Kingdom Brunel, a famed English engineer responsible for the Clifton Suspension Bridge and the tunnel under the Thames among many other things. Because of the high maintenance, the line was locally known as “Brunel’s folly”.
The track was quite busy and so we were keeping up a reasonable pace, partly to keep ahead of a large group of European English-language students but we were still able to stop occasionally and check out the plant life. The soil is quite poor with mainly heather, bracken and gorse although there are one or two colourful species to be seen.
This area also hosts the Leaf-cutter Bee, a species that nests in holes in walls and fences all along the track. These bees cut circular pieces out of the leaves and can be seen rolling these pieces up into carpets and carrying them back to their nests.
We were jolly glad to see The Beach House, a pub close to where the track ended and Greystones began and so we quickly flopped into a window seat and ordered our usual, a Guinness and a glass of Pinot Grigio, along with a shared plate of nachos for lunch, before we headed for the station and the trip back home.