The town as seen from Bray Head
|Motto: Féile agus Fáilte (Irish)
"Hospitality and Welcome"
|Elevation||18 m (59 ft)|
|Time zone||WET (UTC+0)|
|• Summer (DST)||IST (WEST) (UTC-1)|
|Irish Grid Reference||O264185|
Bray (Irish: Bré, meaning "hill", formerly Brí Chualann) is a town in north County Wicklow, Ireland. It is a busy urban centre and seaside resort, with a population of 31,872 making it the ninth largest urban area in Ireland as of the 2011 census. It is situated about 20 km (12 mi) south of Dublin on the east coast.
Bray is the location of some industry, is home for many who commute to Dublin by car or rail, is a shopping town for the surrounding area, and still attracts tourists, particularly from Dublin at weekends. The town straddles the Dublin-Wicklow border, with a portion of the northern suburbs situated in County Dublin. Bray is the location of Ireland's only dedicated film studios, Ardmore Studios.
The name of the town means hill or rising ground, possibly referring to the gradual incline of the town from the Dargle Bridge to Vevay Hill.
In medieval times, Bray was on the border of the coastal district, governed directly by the English crown from Dublin Castle, known as the Pale. Inland, the countryside was under the control of Gaelic Chieftains, such as the O'Toole and O'Byrne clans. Bray features on the 1598 map "A Modern Depiction of Ireland, One of the British Isles" by Abraham Ortelius as "Brey". (It is worth noting the "O Byrne" name appearing prominently on the map). In August or September 1649 Oliver Cromwell is believed to have stayed in Bray on his way to Wexford from Dublin. During the 17th and 18th centuries, Bray was still a small fishing village, but during the latter part of the 18th century, the Dublin middle classes began to move to Bray to escape city life, while still being relatively close to the city. The Earl of Meath purchased the Kilruddery estate in Bray in 1627 with the establishment of the Earl title, the heir apparent is the present holder's only son, Anthony Jacques Brabazon, Lord Ardee (born 1977).
The Dublin and Kingstown Railway, the first in Ireland, opened in 1834 and was extended as far as Bray in 1854. With the railway, the town grew to become the largest Irish seaside resort. Five years after the building of the railway, Turkish baths were also built in Bray in an extravagant Moorish style at a cost of £10,000; these met an end after a turbulent century of business when the demolition squad arrived in 1980. The outbreak of World War II put the industry 'on hold' for its duration. However, during the 1950s tourists from Wales, England, Scotland, and Northern Ireland returned to Bray in great numbers to escape the austerity of post-war rationing. The town's career as a resort declined from the 1960s onwards when foreign travel became an option for large numbers of people.
The River Dargle which enters the sea at the north end of Bray rises from a source near Kippure, in the Wicklow Mountains. Bray Head is situated at the southern end of the famous Victorian promenade with paths leading to the summit and along the sea cliffs. The rocks of Bray Head are a mixture of greywackes and quartzite. The large concrete cross at the summit provides a notable llandmark on the east coast and is a major attraction for locals and visitors.
The town is situated on the coast; Shankill, County Dublin lies to the north, and Greystones, County Wicklow to the south. The picturesque village of Enniskerry lies to the west of the town, at the foot of the Wicklow Mountains.
Bray is governed by a town council (called an urban district before the Local Government Act 2001). Part of the northern Bray area lies within the local authority area of Dún Laoghaire–Rathdown, despite its seamless integration with the rest of the town. The border between County Wicklow and County Dublin lies along Old Conna/Corke Abbey, thereby making all areas north of that point Bray, County Dublin.
Bray is one of the few town councils to have twelve members in recognition of its size. Like Dundalk, Sligo and Drogheda, Bray also uses a ward system. The area around the Southern Cross Road to the south of Bray is not included in the area governed by Bray Town Council, but by Wicklow County Council. The town itself is part of the Bray Local Electoral Area for elections to Wicklow County Council which elects 7 councillors.
A substantial public transport network, both north into Dublin and south into County Wicklow and County Wexford, serves the town. Bray is on the DART Rail Network which stretches north to Malahide and Howth and south to Greystones. The town is also on the mainline Iarnród Éireann rail network which connects north to Connolly Station in Dublin city centre and further to Drogheda and Dundalk. To the south, the rail line goes through Arklow and Gorey before reaching Rosslare Europort. Bray's train station is named after Edward Daly, an executed leader of the 1916 Easter Rising. Bray Daly Station was opened on 10 July 1854. The station's eastern platform features a mural illustrating aspects of local and national history for every decade from the 1850s to the Noughties.
Five bus companies pass through Bray: Dublin Bus, Bus Éireann, Finnegan's Bray, Aircoach, St. Kevin's Bus Service to Glendalough. Dublin Bus is by far the biggest operator with frequent services to and from Dublin City centre and many services within the greater Bray area. Dublin Bus also provides services to Dún Laoghaire, Enniskerry, Greystones, Kilmacanogue, Kilcoole and Newtownmountkennedy. Finnegan's Bray also offer a nightlink service from Dublin. Aircoach operates an hourly service to and from Dublin Airport.
There are plans to extend the Luas light rail system to Fassaroe, an area of development on the town's western periphery. However, the exact connection between the Luas and the town centre railway station has yet to be decided. Until 1958, the old Harcourt Street railway line ran from Harcourt Street in Dublin to Bray, along much of the route of the new Luas.
Bray is a long-established holiday resort with numerous hotels and guesthouses, shops, restaurants and evening entertainment. The town also plays host to a number of high-profile festival events.
Available in the vicinity are fifteen 18-hole golf courses, tennis, fishing, sailing and horse riding. Other features of Bray are the amusement arcades and the National Sealife Centre. Bray is known as the Gateway to Wicklow and is the longest established seaside town in the country. It has a safe beach of sand and shingle to walk on, which is over 1.6 km (0.99 mi) long, fronted by a spacious esplanade. Bray Head, which rises steeply (241 m (791 ft) from the coast, dominates the scene, affording panoramic views of mountains and sea. The concrete cross at the top of the head was erected in 1950 for the holy year.
Bray is a popular base for walkers, ramblers and strollers. It is notable for its mile-long promenade which stretches from the harbour, with its colony of Mute Swans, to the base of Bray Head at the southern end – from where a well worn track leads to the summit. Also very popular with walkers is the 7 km (4.3 mi) Cliff Walk along Bray Head out to Greystones.
In January 2010, Bray was named the "cleanest town in Ireland" in the 2009 Irish Business Against Litter (IBAL) survey of 60 towns and cities.
The annual Bray Summerfest is an established tourist event, taking place over six weeks in July and August. The Summerfest features over 100 free entertainment events, including live music, markets, sporting entertainment, carnivals, and family fun. Performers who have headlined include Mundy, Brian Kennedy, The Undertones, The Hothouse Flowers, and Mary Black. In 2006, over 60,000 visitors attended the main festival weekend in mid-July.
Bray also hosts a large carnival and festival events to celebrate the annual Saint Patrick's Day holiday. The Bray St. Patrick's Carnival & Parade is presented by Bray & District Chamber and is a five-day festival of carnival fun, parades, and live entertainment.
Bray hosts an annual jazz festival on the May bank holiday weekend each year. Described by The Irish Times as "the connoisseur's jazz festival", Bray Jazz Festival has established itself as one of the main events taking place each year on the Irish jazz calendar. Established in 2000, the festival includes performances by jazz and world music artists from Ireland and abroad, and was described by All About Jazz as "one of the very best small jazz festivals in Europe". In 2011 performers included BBC jazz singer of the year Christine Tobin, three times Grammy Award nominated Brazilian player Hamilton de Holanda, and American jazz guitarist Kurt Rosenwinkel.
Pubs and restaurants
Bray is home to many pubs and restaurants, including the first Porterhouse bar, who specialise in brewing their own ales, stouts and beers. In 2010, the Lonely Planet Guide ranked the Harbour Bar in Bray the Best Bar in the World and the Best Off the Beaten Track Bar in the world. The O'Toole family owned the bar for three generations, but was bought by the Duggan family in 2013.
The Bray Head Inn, the hotel of choice for the Victorians circa 1860, has been used for a variety of movies over the last 25 years.
- St. Kieran's NS for Travelling Children
- St. Fergal's Junior and Senior School
- St. Peter's NS
- St. Philomena's NS
- Saint Cronan's Boys' National School
- St. Andrew's NS
- Gaelscoil Uí Cheadaigh
- Scoil Chualann
- Bray School Project NS
- St. Patrick's NS
- St. Kilian's CS
- Coláiste Ráithín
- St. Thomas' CS
- St. Brendan's College
- Presentation College, Bray
- Loreto Secondary School
- St Gerard's School
Bray is home to world, European and Olympic boxing champion Katie Taylor. Olympic boxing coach Zuar Antia lives there after migrating from Georgia. Fifth President of Ireland Cearbhall Ó Dálaigh was born in the town, as were comedian Dara Ó Briain, musician Fionn Regan, television presenter Laura Whitmore and professional wrestler Fergal Devitt, known as Prince Devitt, while former racing driver and Jordan Grand Prix founder Eddie Jordan grew up in the town and Booker Prize-winning writer Anne Enright and singers Mary Coughlan and Sinead O'Connor currently live there. Denis Dempsey, recipient of the Victoria Cross, was from Rathmichael, Bray.
Bray has town twinning agreements with:
- List of towns and villages in Ireland
- History of rail transport in Ireland
- Christ Church, Bray
- Bray Jazz Festival
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