Ireland day 0095. Saturday 01 January 2022- Greystones
|Today’s summary||Took the train to Greystones DART station then walked back over the clifftops in sparking mild sunshine, to Bray station and got the train back from there. Added in a short detour up the Dargle river at the end to have a look at Bray town centre|
|Today’s weather||Record-breaking mild day for January. Sunny and dry all day with light breeze on the coast. About 15C|
|Today’s overview location
(the red cross in a circle shows where Val and I are at the moment)
(Click button below to download a GPX file of today’s clifftop walk):
Bray Greystones clifftop
Even though the Wicklow coastal town of Greystones is just 35 km / 22 miles south from Malahide – and there’s even a direct trainline from here to there – owing to the vagaries of the Irish rail timetabling system, it can actually take the best part of two hours to get there by public transport. For this reason we had abandoned our plans to travel there a couple of weeks ago – not wanting to risk lengthy Covid exposure on the train just before the Christmas holidays.
But today we had no such excuse. The sun was shining, no rain was forecast, and the temperatures were mild (record-breaking, even). So it was a perfect day to celebrate the advent of a new year by exploring this completely new part of the Irish east coast.
Bray and Greystones are a pair of seaside towns, round the coast and a bit south of Dublin. When you get there, you find that they feel very much like UK coastal resorts of a similar vintage – I immediately thought of Llandudno and Torquay. They became popular with Dubliners when a new railway line was opened in 1855, linking them to Dublin. The line was in fact designed by the renowned engineer Isambard Kingdom Brunel – and I sometimes wonder if the reason why Irish railways use a different gauge to most of the rest of the world was down to Brunel’s preference for broad gauge tracks (as seen on the original Great Western Railway in the UK). The line in fact continues further south to the port at Rosslare and is single-track all the way from Bray onwards. The DART line, whose northern terminus is just outside our front door here in Malahide, has its southern end at Greystones.
The section of the line between Greystones in the south and Bray – the next stop north – is probably the most spectacular on the route to Rosslare. The track cuts its way through tunnels and winds above steep coves, and affords tremendous views out to sea and up to the craggy cliffs above. And even more fortuitously, in the process of building the railway, a good path was built on the cliffside above it, which was used for transporting the people and machinery employed in its construction.
Nowadays, the path is reasonably well maintained and is a popular hiking destination – the parallel rail link making a one way walk easily practicable. Our plan today was to travel to the southern end at Greystones and then to walk back to Bray in the north. It turned out to be an excellent choice. The weather, for January, simply couldn’t have been better, and the walk was very easy. We took it very slowly, pausing to admire the sights and of course the railway architecture as we passed along. We also had a quick look round Greystones and Bray, which were both nice though Bray in particular had a slight air of faded grandeur. I’ve noticed that, sadly, urban decay seems to be a bit of a feature of coastal towns all around the British Isles.
The views all along the coast were spectacular, and we both decided the area would merit a return visit – particularly to include a climb to the top of Bray Head Hill, which towers above the path and which we didn’t have time to include today. There was one hazard en route, however. Soon after leaving Bray, the path was blocked by a sturdy green iron fence, with dire warnings about landslides and cliff fall risks fixed to it. But other walkers seemed to have beaten a path round the fence so we boldly strode past it – and rapidly encountered three more similar barriers, all of which we niftily dodged. It turned out that there had been a minor landslip a bit further on. It hardly impinged on the path at all, but public liability being the issue that it seems to be in Ireland, the path had been closed as a precaution. It’s a year now since the closure occurred, and it’s a pity that the damage hasn’t been properly put right yet.
Looking back on the day, I realise that although I’ve waxed lyrical about the broad sandy beaches on the east coast north of Dublin, today we both really enjoyed exploring somewhere a bit more rugged. The 400 million year old igneous rocks in Co. Wicklow erode much more slowly than the bedrock further north, leaving steeper cliffs and taller hills. Altogether the scenery is rather more interesting, although you do have to forego the magnificent skyscapes of the north. I was quite surprised to learn however that despite the apparent hardness of the rocks, they are still subject to coastal erosion and it is thought that at some point the railway may have to be re-routed further inland before it crumbles into the sea.
We finished the walk with a bit of time to spare before the train to Malahide, so we strolled up the side of the Dargle River (what a lovely name), marvelling at the giant swannery by its estuary and admiring the abundant graffiti further up the riverside. We also had time for a quick look round Bray town centre, which I must admit was a bit underwhelming. Then we enjoyed a relaxing trundle up the DART line back to Malahide, and now, continuing the slightly coastal theme, we’re about to have some rather delicious looking grilled fish for tea. Then it’s time to start getting ready for tomorrow. You’ll need to come back in 24 hours time to find out how all that turned out!
Today’s photos (click to enlarge)