Walk for the Weekend: Bray Head, Co Wicklow

Route of great contrasts offers a wealth of attractions for walkers of all abilities

This linear walk of about 7km, along a path that contours gently under Bray Head, is one for any day and in all seasons.

Okay, it hasn’t the heart-stopping beauty of sea and rock experienced on, say, Slieve League or Glen Head in Donegal or Croughaun on Achill Island. Its pathway occupies a much more benign space: one probably more for chatty morning strollers and joggers, picnickers and coffee shoppers, even mountain-buggy pushers and dog walkers, than for hardcore hikers.

Still, on the east coast resident's score sheet of accessibility and gentleness of climate versus the wilder, more elemental beauty of the west, the Bray Head Cliff Walk is well up there. Indeed, it is a real joy to walk this path in the mild, sun-warmed shelter afforded by the Head on a cool, blustery morning of west winds and sunshine.

Accessibility and the often lovely surprise of this micro-climate thus combine to make this a most attractive walk along an ancient path, upgraded by 19th-century railway engineers. It has a wealth of attractions for walkers of all abilities, in terms of sea air, stories, flora and fauna and some of the best of rugged east coast scenery.

I met runners and walkers of all ages, some solitary and taking it all in, others in groups out more for the socialising than the walk

It is a walk of great contrasts, ranging from the wonderful Bray Promenade, the wildness of sea and rock, to the almost agricultural run-out to Greystones village. Along the way, its character morphs from sheltered hedged-in pathways, full of flowers, sunshine and birdsong, to wide, airy cliff-hugging balconies, and from smooth and prepared pathways to rough and rock-hewn underfoot conditions.

Well worth a stop, and a good read along the way, are a series of informative panels concerning the history of the path and its environs, the railway, coastal processes and the exceptional seabird life on the shore below. This is a most “civilised” walk with plenty of seats and picnic tables, opportunities for coffee and lunches at both start and finish, and the Dart to take you back to your start along the most spectacular commuter railway line in Ireland.

I came on a bright May midweek morning. The sun’s reflection had swung a little west and clear of the sea as I headed from Bray Dart station and onto the seafront. This is a great piece of infrastructure, enjoyed on the day I visited by a multitude of strollers, walkers and coffee drinkers. And all along my way to Greystones, the entry to which is currently an unattractive building site, I met runners and walkers of all ages, some solitary and taking it all in, others in groups out more for the socialising than the walk.

And down below me, the railway and the rocky shore provided an aural backdrop of raucous seabirds and sea-sounds, and the occasional noisy prompt to do a bit of train-spotting.

It was a most enjoyable two hours of walking, reading, listening and just being, followed by a pleasant lunch and chance chat with a cyclist – like me refuelling for his onward journey home

Walk for the Weekend: the Bray Head Cliff Walk, Co Wicklow

Map: None needed; path well-marked and panelled

Start/Finish: Bray/Greystones Dart Stations (or vice versa)

Suitability/Effort: About 7km; 2hrs; virtually no climbing.

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