Winner: Bray to Greystones Cliff Walk
The best things in life are free.
So it is with the short and sweet cliff walk linking Bray and Greystones in Co Wicklow - named Ireland's Favourite Local Attraction in our Reader Travel Awards 2020.
"Most walks tire you, but this one energises you," our readers said.
Stretching from 6-9km, depending where you start and finish, the hike is "just the right distance", we were told - "an easy walk but long enough to make you feel like you've worked". The outing "energises you in a way no other walk can", with "amazing views" over coast and cliffs, and a path that is "kept clean and tidy".
Access is a doddle, with both towns on the Dart line, and lots of food and drink options at either end.
The Happy Pear is best-known (the walk is dubbed the 'Camino de Pear' by some); other tasty pit stops include Eleven Deli, Café Grey and the Burrito Box (beside the Beach House bar) in Greystones. In Bray, there's Daata in both towns, and Platform Pizza, Box Burger, the Harbour Bar or a warming bowl of goulash at The Boat Dock on the prom.
The route started as a path for men and horses working on the coastal railway, adding a heritage element too (the remains of Lord Meath's lodge are along the way). "It's scenic and takes you what feels like hundreds of miles away from city life", as one walker told us.
Tips? If you're looking to beat the weekend crowds on this popular walk, start early or go midweek, when you can enjoy stretches to yourself. Most people walk from Bray to Greystones, though it is of course possible to go in the other direction, and few realise that there is an even higher path forming part of the Bray Head Loop. To find it, take the path up Bray Head and continue on past the concrete cross overlooking the town - you can descend after a couple of kilometres towards Greystones, loop back to Bray on the cliff path, or continue over the Head.
See visitwicklow.ie for more.
Dave and Steve Flynn run The Happy Pear café and shop (thehappypear.ie) in Greystones, Co Wicklow, a popular spot for people heading out on the Cliff Walk. We chatted to them about why they think it's such a winner.
Steve: I like to go just before or after sunrise. Normally Dave and I will run halfway up the main Cliff Walk, then take a left and head right up to the Trig Point. There's a lovely climb, then a bit that's quite steep that you have to scramble up, and it's all so exhilarating. After you go off the path, there's pretty much no one around, and you feel like you've got the mountain to yourself. There's a sense of isolation and connection with nature, and it's beautiful.
Dave: I think nature just intrinsically connects you back to yourself. It makes us feel that sense of connection. When you feel anxious, or wound up, or overwhelmed, just going up the cliff reminds you that you're part of a bigger system. Your worries tend to disappear. We see it at the weekend, when people do the walk and come to The Happy Pear café for lunch. You see a lightness, a joy, an ease in their faces, that they're having a nice time. Which is a really nice, refreshing thing to see.
Steve: The walk ticks so many boxes - it's close to the city centre, but you feel very much out in the heart of nature. When you finish, there are lots of little places in Greystones to stop and get some food, then there's the train back home.
Dave: I think the length of it is very accessible, too. It's very easy to access by public transport, and the walk itself is only about an hour-and-a-half long. You can do it with kids - I've done it with my young kids a number of times, and they've managed it. Steve: It's really just stunning. If you go from Bray Head, you're going through these little forests, through really tangled trees, there are amazing looking rocks. It's a real kind of magic. You feel like you're in Yosemite Park in California!
- In conversation with Nicola Brady
1. Bray to Greystones Cliff Walk, Co Wicklow
“It hugs the cliffs, then winds through fields, then back to the cliff edge. It energises you in a way no other walk can.” visitwicklow.ie
2. Howth Cliff Walk, Co Dublin
“Walk the cliffs, get fish ‘n’ chips and a glass of wine or a 99... you can’t beat Howth on a nice day.” visithowth.ie
3. Waterford Greenway
“The Waterford Greenway (pictured above) has not only created a tourist attraction for west Waterford, but also sparked a renewed interest in health and fitness locally. It’s something that should be emulated in every county in Ireland.” visitwaterford.com
4. Phoenix Park, Dublin
“It’s on my doorstep and I absolutely love it here — so peaceful away from the hustle and bustle... can run, walk or cycle and have a lovely lunch in the visitor centre.” phoenixpark.ie
5. Lough Key Forest Park, Co Roscommon
“A fantastic woodland park with a lake and abundance of activities, including zip line, treetop walk, Boda Borg maze, boost trips and nature trails.” loughkey.ie
6. Ballycotton Cliff Walk, Co Cork
“It’s a natural beauty spot that is totally unspoilt — views are amazing, fresh air extraordinary, and in such a pretty village too.”