The name of the town "Bray" or "Bré" means hill or rising ground, possibly referring to the gradual incline of the town from the Dargle Bridge to Vevay Hill and or Bray Head.
In medieval times, Bray was on the southern border of the Pale, the coastal district governed directly by the English crown from Dublin Castle. 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.) 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). 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 remained a typical small manorial village, but during the latter part of the 18th century, the Dublin middle classes began to move to Bray which, while still being relatively close to the city, offered splendid mountain scenery and sea bathing in its immediate vicinity.
The Dublin and Kingstown Railway, the first in Ireland, opened in 1834 and was extended as far as Bray in 1854. With the coming of the railway, the town grew to become Ireland's largest seaside resort. Hotels and extensive residential terraces were built in the vicinity of the seafront. Railway entrepreneur, William Dargan, developed the Turkish baths, designed 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 town continued to thrive following Independence but the outbreak of the Second World War put the industry 'on hold' for its duration. However, during the 1950s tourists from the United Kingdom returned to Bray in great numbers to escape the austerity of Britain's post-war rationing. The town's career as a resort declined from the 1960s onwards when foreign travel became an option for holiday-makers. However, day-trippers continued to flock to Bray, particularly during the summer months. The Summer Festival, featuring carnival attractions, fireworks display and an airshow, draws tens of thousands of visitors in July and August.
Thousands of people turned out on the seafront to see Olympic boxing champion Katie Taylor, the town's most famous sportsperson, return home from London in August 2012.
The town is situated on the east coast to the south of County Dublin. 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. The Irish Sea provides scenic views and moderate temperatures all year round. People participate in such sports as sailing, rowing, swimming. The beach and seafront Promenade provide a social focal point for residents and visitors. The beach has been reworked several years back to protect the town from erosion.
The River Dargle which enters the sea at the north end of Bray rises from a source near Djouce, 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 landmark on the east coast and is a major attraction for locals and visitors. South and west of Bray the Wicklow Mountains are Ireland's most extensive upland area, renowned for hiking and mountain biking.
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 railway station is named after Edward Daly, an executed leader of the 1916 Easter Rising. Bray 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 2000s, which are being replaced by mosaics.
There are plans to extend the Luas light rail system to Fassaroe, an area in the northwest of the town. 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. As of 2014, there is much doubt if the Luas will be extended to Bray.
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 North Wicklow and South Dublin 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.
Bray lies along the M11 motorway corridor; an interchange at its northern side links with the M50 Dublin bypass.
Bray has easy access to its closest commercial and private airports. Dublin Airport is reachable via the M50 which passes to the west of Dublin City. The AirCoach has two stops in Bray to and from Dublin Airport. Newcastle Aerodrome is the closest private airfield a short distance south of Bray.
Bray has a steadily growing population of permanent residents. It increases dramatically in the warmer seasons with tourists from Dublin and other countries to attend festivals, be by the sea and as part of trips to the Garden of Ireland, Wicklow, of which Bray is a gateway.
Bray was governed by a town council until 2014. 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. The town itself is part of the Bray Local electoral area for elections to Wicklow County Council which elects eight councillors which also sit on the Bray Municipal Council.
Bray's 8 County Councillors are:Brendan Thornhill (Ind; Cathaoirleach of the Bray Municipal District)
Steven Matthews (GP; Leas-Cathaoirleach of the Bray Municipal District)
Joe Behan (Ind)
Michael O'Connor (SF)
Christopher Fox (Ind)
Oliver O'Brien (SF)
John Ryan (FG)
Pat Vance (FF)
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 town's vicinity are two 18-hole golf courses, one tennis club, fishing, a sailing club 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 beach of sand and shingle 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.
The amusements on Bray Beach have been a strong attraction for day visitors from Dublin for many years.
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.
There are several attractions all year round including the walk along the Bray Promenade and feeding the swans at the harbour, the Cliff Walk from Bray around the Bray Head Mountain to Greystones village, the Sealife Aquarium, Kilruddery House and Gardens. For adventure for both young and old there is Squirrel’s Scramble for kids in Kilruddery Gardens and Bray Adventures for both sea and land adventures of all types.Saint Patrick's Day Festival
Bray hosts a large carnival and festival events to celebrate the annual Saint Patrick's Day holiday around 17 March every year. The Bray St. Patrick's Carnival and Parade is presented by Bray & District Chamber and is a five-day festival of carnival fun, parades and live entertainment.Silent Film Festival
Bray hosts a yearly silent film festival, the Killruddery Film Festival in Killruddery Gardens, this runs from 13 to 15 April 2012. It shows such films as La Roue and Camille.Bray Jazz Festival
Bray Jazz Festival takes place annually on the May bank holiday weekend. The festival includes performances by jazz and world music artists from Ireland and abroad.Bray Summerfest
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.
Hell & Back event
Hell & Back is a new adventure race that takes place up in Kilruddery Estates where thousands of people gather run the adventure races a couple of times a year.
Cliff Run event
The 10 km Cliff Run from Bray to Greystones is an annual scenic round on the coast around Bray Head Mountain. This event is very popular for runners form around Ireland.
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 it was bought by the Duggan family in 2013. The Duggans also operate two seafront premises, Katie Gallagher's and the Martello, both include restaurants on site. Bray seafront bars are characterised by extensive open air terraces, catering for large crowds during the summer. Most provide bar food. There are twenty two licensed premises in Bray, including six hotels.
There are twelve fully licensed restaurants offering a range of cuisines including Chinese, Indian, Nepalese and European. There are several unlicensed restaurants/cafes providing breakfast, lunch or snacks during the day. A McDonald's fast food outlet occupies the ground floor of the Old Town Hall on Main Street. In 2015, The Irish Times published a study which analysed the presence of fast food outlets in Ireland. Bray was found to have the lowest per capita concentration of the ten towns and cities included, with just 0.09 stores per 1,000 people.
The Arts scene is active across a wide range of disciplines. There is a designated arts centre, several galleries, venues hosting live music and performance and a variety of arts groups operating in the community. The Mermaid Arts Centre opened in 2002 at the St. Cronan's Civic Offices Development off Main Street. The Centre has a two hundred and fifty seat auditorium hosting live music, theatre, performance and arthouse cinema. There is a large gallery on the upper floor featuring contemporary visual art and a studio area. There is also a cafe on the ground floor.
The Signal Arts Centre was founded in 1990 providing gallery and studio space for local artists. It operates under a voluntary directorate and hosts a regular calendar of exhibitions by groups and individuals. It is situated on Albert Avenue near the Seafront.
The Bray Arts Group was founded in 1996 to press for an Arts Centre and to showcase local talent across the arts spectrum. Its monthly event at the Martello Hotel on Strand Road presents music, literature, dance and visual arts. The group publishes a monthly journal which is available online.
Bray is home to Ireland's oldest film studios, Ardmore Studios, established in 1958, where films such as Excalibur, Braveheart and Breakfast on Pluto have been shot. Custer's Last Stand-up was filmed in Bray and the town was also used to film Neil Jordan's film Byzantium, part of which was shot in the Bray Head Inn.
Currently, the Mermaid Arts Centre is the only venue for cinema in Bray. The mainstream cinema on the Quinnsboro Road closed down a number of years ago. There are plans afoot to build a new cinema and shopping centre in Bray town centre. It is hoped that a decision will be reached by An Bord Pleanála by the end of the year.
Bray hosts a number of groups including the Square One Theatre Group and Bray Arts. The principal venue is the Mermaid along with some smaller halls.
Many authors have lived in Bray including James Joyce, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and Neil Jordan. There are a number of writing groups such as Abraxas. Cafe Literario on Albert Walk is an attraction for Bray's literary set. A more formal setting is found at Bray Library. Situated on Eglinton Road it is a Carnegie Library dating from 1910. *Bray Library Services
Music has strong traditions in Bray with regular sessions in pubs like the Hibernian, the Harbour Bar and the Martello amongst others. Education across a wide range of musical forms is available at through the School of Music supported by the Everest Center There are a number of choirs in Bray including, the Bray Community Choir, the Bray Choral Society, Bray Gospel Choir and the Bray Youth Choir. Dance is increasing in popularity with more modern dance classes starting up in schools in Bray including the Bray School of Dance
Bray is host to Bray Bowling Club which trains regularly in Fáilte Park and play through Ireland. and there is also 10 Pin Bowling at the Bray Bowling Alley.
Bray is host to the Bray Wheelers Cycling Club which trains regularly traveling through Wicklow County and surrounding counties.
Bray fortunately has access to Brennanstown Riding School to learn and enjoy horse riding.
Fishing in both the River Dargle and on the sea coastline is a very popular activity all year round. There are a number of clubs including Bray Head Fishing Club and Dargle Anglers Club.
Golf is a very popular sport with the residents and visitors to Bray. There are a number of golf clubs and pitch & putt courses in and around Bray including Bray Golf Club located south of the town and Old Conna Golf Club to the north of Bray.
Bray due to its fabulous coastline is a perfect spot for learning and enjoying sailing with Bray Sailing Club.
Bray is home to League of Ireland semi-professional football club Bray Wanderers who play at the Carlisle Grounds. It also hosts schoolboy football club Saint Joseph's Boys A.F.C., Ardmore Rovers and Wolf Tone F.C.
Wicklow Lawn Tennis Club was founded in 1894. It is located on Vevay Road.
Other clubs may be referenced here.
Bray caters for the full range of educational needs from child care to further education.
There are a wide variety of child care centres around Bray for families living in the area.Little People's Academy
There is a full range of primary schools catering for a diversity of educational requirements. These include public and private schools, a School Project, Gaelscoileanna, Catholic and Protestant schools, and schools for special needs.Bray School Project National School
Gaelscoil Uí Cheadaigh
Newcourt Special School
Saint Andrew's National School
Saint Cronan's Boys' National School
Saint Fergal's National School
Saint Gerard's Junior School
Saint Kieran's National School for Travelling Children
Saint Patrick's National School
Saint Peter's National School
Saint Philomena's National School
There is a full range of secondary schools including Public and Private schools.Coláiste Ráithín
Loreto Secondary School
Presentation College, Bray
Saint Brendan's College
Saint Gerard's School
Saint Killian's Community School
Saint Thomas' Community School
Bray Institute of Further Education
ATC Language School
Dublin Oak Academy
Elian's Dublin, a Spanish international school.
English Language Center Ireland
Language Academy Ireland
Bray hosts a number of industries from the basic commodities and tourism to industrial parks that technological and production firms to seat national and international firms.Bray Industrial Estate
Killarney Road Industrial Estate
Solus Tower Industrial Estate
Southern Cross Business Park
Bray has been a focal point for the aggregation and distribution of news and communication in Wicklow for many years. It has developed its own subculture and channels.
The Bray People is solely focused on the news in the local areas and neighbourhoods.
East Coast FM Radio Station has a long history within the community as a source of entertainment and news.
The following are former or current residents of the town:Cearbhall Ó Dálaigh, fifth President of Ireland was born in the town
Dara Ó Briain, comedian and UK television host was born in the town
Denzil Lacey, former RTÉ 2fm presenter, currently working with Spin South West grew up and lived in the town
Eddie Jordan, former racing driver and Jordan Grand Prix founder
Seamus Costello, Founding member of the Irish National Liberation Army.
Ed Joyce, professional cricketer
Fergal Devitt, professional wrestler in WWE, where he wrestles under the name Finn Bálor, was born and trained in the town
Fionn Regan, Irish musician
Hozier, a singer/songwriter is from Bray
James Joyce, writer
Katie Taylor, world, European, and Olympic boxing gold medalist
Laura Whitmore, former MTV television presenter, and Strictly Come Dancing 2016 contestant, was born in the town
Lennox Robinson, Lennox Robinson was an Irish Dramatist and poet. His most popular play was The Whiteheaded Boy (1916). Other plays included Crabbed Youth and Age, The Far Off Hills. He lived at Innisfree, the same house that Sheridan Le Fanu lived in, though at different times.
Maria Doyle Kennedy, an Irish singer and actress who resided in the town as a child.
Mary Coughlan currently resides in the town
Sinead O'Connor, singer currently resides in the town
Sheridan Le Fanu, Sheridan Le Fanu was a leading Irish writer of gothic horror and mystery novels. His best known works include Uncle Silas, In a Glass Darkly and Carmilla. The latter was to greatly influence Bram Stoker when he wrote his horror masterpiece Dracula.
Sir William Wilde and Lady Jane Wilde, the parents of Oscar Wilde, built properties on Esplanade Terrace in 1863, one of which is now the Strand Hotel.
Thomas Langlois Lefroy, Thomas Lefroy was an Irish politician and judge. He lived in his family estate in Newcourt.
Darren Randolph goalkeeper for West Ham United F.C.
Bray has town twinning agreements with:Bègles, France