Discovering Ireland’s Rugged Side
Ireland: A Cliffside Walk in Bray
By Gary Pearson
Having never travelled to Ireland before, we wanted to experience something unique. We wanted the opportunity to take a leap of faith, to live on the edge.
Ez -– my partner and travel companion –- and I didn’t know exactly how to achieve these goals but we wanted to see nature in all its pristine beauty. In passing conversation we were told of a quaint, idyllic town, fringing the Irish Sea called Greystones (Na Clocha Liatha).
Without a second thought we hopped on a train from Dublin, bound for a seaside town we had never before heard of.
The train into Greystones filled us with anticipation. You could sense, by the journey’s stunning seaside views, our instinctive decision would turn out to be the correct one.
Greystones, somewhat anticlimactically and predictably named after a stretch of grey stones, met us with a stiff breeze typical of many UK seaside towns. It howled and groaned, epitomizing nature at its most rugged.
Forceful and battle hardened, the breeze took on many tough-love characteristics of a lesser populated, middle class Irish town. It made its presence felt but wasn’t abrasive in doing so.
The sun, blanketed by overcast conditions, made a few cameo appearances as we made the short walk into town.
Confronted by the sort of hunger that cannot be ignored, we decided to make a pit stop at Café Grey, a quintessential small-town establishment brimming with the sort of ambience ideal for a refuelling.
Although busy, the staff was friendly and welcoming. The fresh, taste-bud stimulating turkey club and beef pastrami sandwiches, were the highlight of our visit.
Maybe we enjoyed lunch so much due to the severity of our hunger, but the overall experience left us with an enjoyable lingering taste, almost as memorable as the food itself.
Walking the only high street of Greystones, which to this day is the home of American author J.P Donleavy, I was struck by a heightened sense of awareness, a nip of fulfillment. Maybe, I thought, Donleavy enjoyed the same meal at very same Café Grey table.
Probably not, though, as the renowned writer is known to carry out his days like that of a reclusive pauper. The author of the timeless classic, The Ginger Man, Donleavy resides in his Irish-born mother’s home.
I feel inspired and motivated whenever exploring a place known to house famous writers. The feeling is all encompassing, bringing to light any dormant creative juices. It is accompanied by an indescribable natural high, an acute sense of enlightenment. Or was that the copious amount of wine gums I devoured while entrenched in this state of reverie?
In retrospect, and due to the fleeting nature of this “enlightenment”, I’m under the impression the wine gums had the biggest role to play.
Regardless, it was on with our Greystones gallivant.
Bray Cliffside Walk
Sticking out like sore thumbs and haplessly wondering the high street, we fortuitously stumbled upon a “Bray Cliffside Walk” sign. The wind’s ferocity had strengthened but there was light at the end of the tunnel and in the sky, the overhead clouds parting like the Red Sea.
We made yet another pit stop to muster the strength for our long walk ahead, this time opting for a cliché Guinness and cider at The Beach House, a local tavern that is complemented by a seaside view.
Greystones, I found out while sipping on a full-bodied Guinness, has a population of 17,000 and was named, at China’s LivCom awards in 2008, as the world’s most livable community. The pit stop turned out to be rewarding on a number of fronts.
Now completely unimpeded, the sun stretched its legs and showered us with a measure of warmth as we embarked on a nature hike deserving of all the locals’ praise.
Flowers, fauna and fresh greenery dominated the scene while the Irish Sea’s great open expanse enveloped the horizon. We were sandwiched by nature in all its forms. Sky, land and sea coalesced to form a canvas artists would salivate over recreating.
The walk, suitable for families with children approaching their teenage years, isn’t too physically demanding. We ascended about 130 metres on route to Bray, which lies seven kilometres away. We. were told it shouldn’t take more than two hours, even at the most leisurely of paces.
Along the way you’ll be graced with panoramic views of the Irish Sea. Numerous bird species circle the skies above the frigid water, keeping a beady eye out for their next unsuspecting prey.
Bees in abundance clung to many sunflowers as cattle roamed freely beyond the remaining medieval stone walls.
As we snaked our way along the escarpment, trains darted out of tunnels below, like a newborn seeing light for the first time. But unlike a newborn, these trains knew where they’re going, their noses spearing ahead with direction and intent.
The air became noticeably cooler as the sun, preparing to retire for the day, dipped gradually along the horizon. The stiff breeze, now all the more harsh and unforgiving, seemed like it was warning us not to overstay our welcome. Surely, Bray wasn’t too far away.
For the first time, after navigating yet another cliff contour, we could spot a town in the distance way below. I tried to place myself in an explorer’s shoes. Impossible to reenact what it must have felt like to discover places anew, I took great solace realizing it wasn’t long before a triumphant brew.
From Greystones to Bray we connected with nature in a symbiotic way, discovering the raw seaside charm of Ireland on a blustery spring day.
Gary Pearson lives in Canmore, Alberta and has freelanced on behalf of the Canadian Press, The Edmonton Journal, The Travel Itch, among other publications. He can be found on Twitter @newagejourno. Visit his travel blog, www.wonderingwayfarers.com, to immerse yourself in tales of wonder and all-things travel.