Living in central Dublin in a small, mouldy flat on a street full of drunk tourists requires occasional reality escapes. Bray, a small rural town a bit to the South from Dublin turned out to be an excellent one. If you ever wanted to see a ton of photos of Irish moors, this is your post!
Bray is super easy to access from Dublin - a mere 45 minutes by train to the South. 30,000 inhabitants and a coastline to die for. This is where I'll move if I ever retire in Ireland! Well, here or Howth - there seems to be some kind of rivalry between these two regions, and to be honest, it's hard to pick just one.
My entourage for this exploration trip consisted of two of my friends from my uni program, a boyfriend of one and my own dear Alex, of course. Our Finnish-Canadian-British-German-Sri Lankan power team met by the railway station a bit after 2pm, and was greeted by this gorgeous first taste of what to expect from Bray (photo from the railway station):
Our plan of the day was to climb Bray Head, the hill you can see on the horizon in the above picture. In case you plan on doing the same, equip yourself with a bottle of water, good shoes and warm clothes - it gets steep and windy out there! There really isn't a need for a hiking map, since the hill is remotely small and the path pretty straightforward. Just follow all the people - there will be plenty.
We got to the top in half an hour, and the view is easily worth the effort. And since we're in Ireland, why not put a huge-ass religious symbol on top of the hill?
After reaching the top we made the decision to continue our exploration to a side path we found a bit down the hill. We had no idea where the road would take us, but why not find out?
We were a bit baffled by the amount of ash and burnt bushes all across the hills, but a more knowledgable person in our entourage enlightened the situation by telling us the hills actually catch fire. "In IRELAND? With all the humidity?" Apparently, yes. Bush fires happen in here too. The more you know... Check the burnt area for example in the photo below:
The drop down to the sea was scary for someone with a fear of heights like me. You can't see it from this photo, but there actually is a railroad to Greystones following the sea line down there!
Speaking of Greystones: we were able to see a glimpse of the town from the top of the hill. Not sure why there was so much smoke...
Then we ended up accidentally trespassing this farm. Google Maps showed us a way around the hills without having to go back the same way we came from, so we took the challenge and went exploring. A few gates and barbed wires later we realised we probably shouldn't be there... But it was too late. And in the end it was worth it, because look at this landscape! Look at how green the grass is! I swear to god that's not Photoshop!
And what would a day trip to Irish moors be if we didn't find any sheep?
Eventually we survived back to town, a little after sunset. Despite Bray being a remotely small town, it was almost impossible to find a place to eat without having a reservation. We tried multiple restaurants from vegan pizzeria to an Indian place, but everything was absolutely packed.
Then Willy remembered THE BEST PUB IN THE WORLD is in Bray. Yes, you heard me. It's official: Lonely Planet voted The Harbour Bar in Bray as the best pub in the world. There's no way we can't check it out while we're there.
From outside The Harbour Bar looks pretty much like any other rural Irish pub. When you enter, the first room on your right looks ridiculously small - don't let that fool you! Go through the door on the other side of the room and you'll find much more places to sit down. Much, much more... So much that my trip to the ladies' bathroom turned into a survival game (hint: it's upstairs).
We found seats from upstairs, and the place just became much more charming. Fireplaces, cozy sofas and no one else in sight - the Finnish side of me approves!
The fireplace turned out to be more useful than expected though: for the first half an hour we sat with our coats on, since there was no heating whatsoever. We were only saved by a bartender who noticed our misery and offered to put up a fire.
The place has quite a special decor. Check it out yourself:
Yes, those are pictures of popes on the opposite wall. They might have also had some satanic symbols hanging here and there. Why not, I guess?
The Harbour Bar also has three cats (who needs cat cafes when you can go to an Irish pub?). I was able to meet one of them, and they sure look like they don't mind the amount of people at all.
To our eye there was nothing that special in The Harbour Bar, but people, as always in Ireland, were nice. Alex got to taste the best whiskey he has ever had, thanks to a spot-on recommendation by a random Irish gentleman sitting by the bar. The venue really needs to get some recognition though: they have a large, heated terrace and a patio outside. And for anyone into Stranger Things tv-series, they also have this on the way to ladies' bathroom:
Have you been to Bray? Is there something else we should have visited in there? Or are there other spots like this in Dublin worth a visit? Share your thoughts in the comments below!