By this point in the year the days are getting longer, the nights are getting brighter, and the temperatures are edging into the double figures (just about).
It’s a safe enough bet to say that before you know where you are you’ll all be togging out in shorts and t-shirts, and applying suntan lotion onto exposed parts.
Before that happens (and let’s be honest, it could be another month or two), it would be no harm to toughen up a bit, and if there’s anything out there to get you to grit your teeth, it’s a ramble along the coastline.
One of the most enjoyable, and therefore of moderate strain on your bones, is in Co Wicklow — Bray to Greystones (or vice versa).
Known as the Cliff Walk, this coastal jaunt snakes its way alongside Bray Head and affords some of the most breathtaking views of Ireland’s East Coast.
At the Bray end, it starts from the bandstand on the promenade, has a distance of just over six kilometres, and takes — all things considered, such as stopping to take a slug of water, a few photos, and a breather or four — the best part of two hours to complete.
The terrain, while of variable surface quality, is reasonably well maintained, as it follows the rail line; this means that if you drive to Bray to start the walk, you can get on the DART at Greystones and return in a warmer environment.
The real beauty here, however, is that as you walk past the cliffs, you can see small colonies of seabirds and ‘secret’ coves prior to hitching a proverbial lift, (on an incline, so prepare to use a tad more muscle), towards Greystones gentle Victorian seafront.
The Cliff Walk’s history is also interesting, and it’s directly associated with the rail line in that it was created during construction in the mid-1800s in order to provide access for rail workers and their equipment.
Because of local geology however, its construction became one of the most expensive in Ireland.
The noted British engineer, Isambard Kingdom Brunel, was hired as consultant on the project, and under his guidance a single rail line, with several tunnels, was created.
It was, by any stretch of the imagination, a feat of extraordinary engineering (although its upkeep was so expensive it became known as Brunel’s Folly).
Back then, Bray was little more than a village, and the population of Greystones numbered less than 100. From the mid-1850s onwards, however, the two settlements were made accessible to Dublin city, and so became then-fashionable seaside resorts and retreats.
It’s true that over the subsequent decades both Bray and Greystones have dipped in the popularity stakes, but there’s no denying that they each now have their own low-key charm.
As does this particular cliff walk. It may not have the challenges of Co Wicklow’s more arduous and time-intensive walks (notably Djouce Mountain and Lugnaquilla, both of which would test the mettle of a hill walking pro), but it is nonetheless a perfectly good and healthy way to waste a good portion of the day’s bright hours.
Budget: The Martello, 47 Strand Road, Bray, is right on the seafront, and is a five minute stroll from the railway station (which is on the DART line — Dublin city centre is less than 45 minutes away). The Martello is a refurbished grand Victorian house that delivers above average contemporary hotel service (including free Wi-Fi) at reasonable prices, www.themartello.ie
Blowout: Recently known as the Ritz-Carlton, the 5-star Powerscourt Hotel, Enniskerry, is situated on the historic (and glorious) Powerscourt Estate. Dublin is about 30 minutes away, but you really wouldn’t think it.
This Palladian-style, seven-storey hotel has 200 rooms, two highly regarded golf courses, a signature restaurant (Sika), its own pub (McGills) and a 30,000sq ft luxury spa (by ESPA). Pricey? Yep. Worth it? Double yep. www.powerscourthotel.com
Bray: Long regarded as one of the best Italian restaurants in not only Co Wicklow but also in Leinster, Campo de’Fiori Ristorante serves award-winning, truly authentic Italian cuisine (the restaurant is the only one in the country to have received the Ospitalita Italiana award). And top marks for delivering the most perfect espresso ristretto in Ireland! www.campodefiori.ie
Greystones: Whether you need replenishing after hill climbing, cliff walking or just plain Greystones street strolling, there’s little to beat The Happy Pear, Church Road. Overseen by brothers David and Stephen Flynn, the place has grown since its origins as a café back in the late Noughties, yet it has continued to admirably espouse its aesthetic of healthier eating habits, www.thehappypear.ie
Also on Church Road, by the way, (and also operated, as spooky coincidence would have it, by brothers Brian, Paul and Colin Quinn) is The Three Qs, winner of the Best Restaurant in Wicklow 2104 (awarded by the Restaurant Association of Ireland). www.thethreeqs.com
Yes, you could drive to either Bray or Greystones, and commence the cliff walk from either town, but we’d definitely recommend getting on board the DART from Dublin city centre and spending time gazing out the window at the scenery, sea views and a landscape that has been called — with some justification — the Naples of Ireland.
We know you’ll probably be with friends, and we know the Cliff Walk is, by comparison to others, child’s play, but just in case you’re going solo: dress appropriate to the weather conditions, inform family/friends exactly where it is you’re going to, bring along some snacks/water, and charge your mobile phone before heading out.
For further details on this and other walks in Wicklow, log on to www.visitwicklow.ie
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