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Reviewed on 3 Dec 2019
Bray is a town situated just 12 miles south of Dublin in County Wicklow, Republic of Ireland. It has developed rapidly since the Victorian era, as wealthy Dubliners looked for somewhere to stay which combined traditional seaside appeal with proximity to Dublin itself.
Now, it is a combination of bustling urban centre, old fashioned seaside resort and thriving cultural hot spot. As such it is packed with hotels, guesthouses and bed and breakfasts, offering the full range of accommodation for everyone from families looking for a holiday on the beach to backpackers wanting a place to crash for the night. The rooms available here are also ideally placed for business people closing a deal in Dublin but looking for accommodation that closes their day in a more relaxed manner than the bustle of the city allows.
As befits a seaside resort, the true centre of Bray, as far as food, drink, entertainment and accommodation are concerned, is adjacent to the beach.
In the case of Bray, this means Strand Road, which runs parallel to the promenade and the beach beyond it. Home to hotels, bed and breakfasts and inns, Strand Road places all the attractions within easy walking distance of a hotel or guesthouse, so you can explore the National Sea Life Centre, Bray harbour, the local sailing club and a selection of pubs and restaurants.
The nightlife on offer just a short walk away from the hotels and bed and breakfasts on Strand Road includes the legendary Harbour Bar. This quintessential Irish pub has been named by travel guides as the ‘best bar in the world’. Dating from the 1800s, it attracts a diverse clientele including tourists, hardened pub-goers and trendy young bohemians. After a night in the Harbour Bar it’s likely that you’ll be grateful your hotel room and bed are just a short walk away.
Explore further south along Strand Road and you’ll find a host of restaurants, bars and pubs, serving food and drink from around the world, including handmade Italian ice cream.
Although the mile long promenade represents the most vibrant and tourist-friendly part of Bray, it would be a mistake to ignore the rest of the town, such as the less developed areas toward the south of the promenade. Stay in a hotel or guesthouse close to Vevay Road, which is set back from the coast, and you’ll have easy access to the cliffs and Bray Head, the hill which provides stunning views back down over Bray itself. From here it’s possible to walk up to the top of Bray Head, marked by the Bray Head Cross, and to attempt all or part of the spectacular Bray to Greystones cliff walk.
The setting of Bray itself, with its combination of beach and hills, offers an appealing place to book a hotel at any time of the year. Times of the year which might be especially busy and particularly worth experiencing, include the Bray Jazz Festival, which takes place over the May Bank Holiday weekend every year and the Bray Summerfest, which stretches through six weeks in July and August and includes a host of free entertainment including carnivals, live music, street markets and sporting competitions.