Reasons why you should consider Bray on your house hunt
The improvements which have taken place in Bray to transform it from tat to Ireland's tidiest town
WITH a population of almost 32,000, the North Wicklow town of Bray today squeezes into Ireland's top ten most populated urban centres. Twelve miles from the capital, it was first opened up by the railway's link to Dublin in 1854, boomed as a holiday resort before fading again, but was given its current lease of life in the eighties with the arrival of the DART.
Bray's famous sons and daughters include the comedian Dara O'Briain, the boxer Katy Taylor, motorsport supremo Eddie Jordan and current residents include the singer Mary Couglan.
Once the biggest Irish Victorian seaside resort, Bray drew summer vacationers from England, Scotland and Northern Ireland, particularly after the War when they flocked here to avoid rationing, and the town still has a significant population of Scots and English who liked it so much that they never went home.
The town's resort heritage is still very much a part of its identity, with the famous seafront promenade, the remnants of seaside amusement arcades and cafes, the elaborate Victorian architecture, which includes the Esplanade Hotel and the mock Tudor Town Hall building (which is now a McDonalds).
Unfortunately, some gems were lost along the way, including the town's famous and elaborate Turkish baths and the regal International Hotel, replaced by the Bray Bowl.
Nightlife and social: These days the waterfront offers a thriving nightlife strip which ensures that a good proportion of the town's young population stays put for weekend nights out. In fact, it's the dual existence of both self contained seaside town and Dublin satellite which makes Bray a popular location for families. It's also the most affordable urban district among the affluent North Wicklow town quartet which includes Greystones, Delgany and Enniskerry.
The waterfront "strip" on the Strand Road includes the famous Harbour Bar, the Martello Hotel with the Koo nightclub, the Porterhouse with the Eclectic Garden nightclub and Doyles Bar.
The town also has its share of fine eateries which include surf and turf experiences at the Barracuda and The Tower Bistro, both on the Strand Road. The town even has a Tibetan eaterie with the Mount Everest of Kathmandu on Main Street. It has its own Cineplex, ten pin bowling complex and, of course, the seafront amusements. It's also a big soccer town, being home to Premier outfit Bray Wanderers.
Tourism and amenities: More recently, Bray has revived its tourist credentials with the Sea Life Aquarium, Bray Head scenic walk and the Cliff Walk to Greystones linking into the Wicklow Way, while a series of well attended festivals, notably Summerfest, draw the crowds from Dublin and beyond.
It's also a popular sea fishing location and boasts a thriving sea fishing club with its own fleet of boats. Hard work by residents and local businesses have dragged the town back from its formerly "tatty" reputation to achieve the Cleanest Town In Ireland award in 2010.
With Bray Head, the Sugarloaf, Cliffs and the mile-long Esplanade, the scenery is top class and many East Coast day trip locations like Powerscourt House and Gardens with its waterfall, and Glendalough, are also within easy reach.
Shopping: Bray has a Dunnes store on Main Street and there are two central shopping centres, the Royal and the Castle Street Centre. There are four shoe shops, a Boots and a Smyths toy store. However, many residents will be heard to complain that there's a distinct lack of high end fashion shops here.
The southern periphery of the town contains its business hub with a number of light industries and retail parks.
One of the town's most famous enterprises is Ardmore Studios.
Transport: The regular DART service runs every 15 minutes and gets to Dublin within the hour in the morning.
The Iarnrod Eireann Rosslare to Dublin service also stops here and the town is well served by Dublin Bus and recently got the Air Coach service.
The M11 and M50 motorways mean Dublin is easily accessible by car. Indeed, the Dun Laoghaire Rathdown Council boundary runs through the town.
Schools: There are eight schools in Bray, of all hues. St Gerard's private school is regularly found in the top ten Leinster schools while the town also has a Presentation College, a Gaelscoil and a selection of national schools.
House prices: What this has meant is that Bray prices have moved up relative to Dublin's over the past 20 years to match or even exceed them in some cases.
For example, an average semi in Cloverhill estate now costs €320,000. And while entry level for houses is low - you can pick up a three bed terrace in need of work at Old Connaught View for just €115,000 through REA Ed Dempsey - at the other end, the top side of the market easily matches the capital's plushest, with period homes on swanky Sidmonton Road regularly making more than €1m.
A Victorian townhouse on Richmond Terrace in need of refurbishment has six bedrooms and is on offer for €375,000 through DNG. For investors a two bed apartment at Glencourt Dell can be got for €215,000 through REA Ed Demspsey.
At the top end, HJ Byrne has a new five bed property in a period style for €640,000 at Wyvern Square.
But new homes have been in such short supply that there's even been talk of Bray Wanderers' Carlisle Grounds being sold to developers to satisfy the demand for homes. Hopefully though Bray won't have to lose its footballing heart to housing.