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The town as seen from Bray Head
|Motto(s): Féile agus Fáilte(Irish)
"Hospitality and Welcome"
|o Total||7.55 km2 (2.92 sq mi)|
|Elevation||18 m (59 ft)|
|o Density||4,317/km2 (11,180/sq mi)|
|Time zone||WET (UTC+0)|
|o Summer (DST)||IST (WEST) (UTC-1)|
|Eircode (Routing Key)||A98|
|Area code(s)||01 (+3531)|
|Irish Grid Reference||O264185|
Bray (Irish: Bré, meaning "hill", formerly Brí Chualann) is a coastal town in north County Wicklow, Ireland. It is situated about 20 km (12 mi) south of Dublin city centre on the east coast. It has a population of 32,600 making it the fourteenth largest urban area in all of Ireland and the ninth largest urban area within the Republic of Ireland (at the 2016 census).
Bray is a resort town, and its proximity to Dublin make it a destination for tourists and day-trippers from the capital. Bray is home to Ardmore Studios, and some light industry is located in the town, with some business and retail parks on its southern periphery. Commuter links between Bray and Dublin are provided by rail, Dublin Bus and the M11 and M50 motorways.
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, and the coastal district was governed directly by the English crown from Dublin Castle. Inland, the countryside was largely 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". The Earl of Meath purchased the Kilruddery estate in Bray in 1627 with the establishment of the Earl title. 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 was a small manorial village, but during the latter part of the 18th century, the Dublin middle-classes began to move to Bray.
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 a seaside resort. Hotels and residential terraces were built in the vicinity of the seafront. Railway entrepreneur, William Dargan, developed the Turkish baths, designed in a Moorish style at a cost of £10,000; these were demolished in 1980. The town continued to thrive following Independence, but the outbreak of the Second World War put economic development 'on hold' for its duration. During the 1950s, tourists from the United Kingdom returned to Bray in some numbers to escape the austerity of Britain's post-war rationing. The town's use as a resort declined from the 1960s onwards when foreign travel became an option for holiday-makers. However, day-trippers continued to come to Bray during the summer months.
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 village of Enniskerry lies to the west of the town, at the foot of the Wicklow Mountains. People participate in such sports as sailing, rowing, swimming. The beach and seafront promenade are used by residents and visitors. The beach has been reworked several years back to protect the town from erosion.[when?]
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 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. There is a large concrete cross at the summit.
A 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.
Five bus companies pass through Bray: Dublin Bus, Bus Éireann, Finnegan's Bray, Aircoach, St. Kevin's Bus Service to Glendalough. Dublin Bus is the biggest operator with services to and from Dublin city centre and 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 a service to and from Dublin Airport.
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 growing population of permanent residents. It increases in the warmer seasons with tourists from Dublin and other countries.
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. The border between County Wicklow and County Dublin lies along Old Conna/Corke Abbey, 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. These eight councillors are:
Bray is a long-established holiday resort with hotels and guesthouses, shops, restaurants and evening entertainment. The town also hosts a number of festival events.
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. It has a beach of sand and shingle which is over 1.6 km (0.99 mi) long, fronted by an esplanade. Bray Head, which rises 241 m (791 ft) from the coast, has views of mountains and sea. The concrete cross at the top of the head was erected in 1950 for the holy year.
Bray is used as a base for walkers, and has a mile-long promenade which stretches from the harbour, with its colony of mute swans, to the base of Bray Head at the southern end. A track leads to the summit. Also used by walkers is the 7 km (4.3 mi) Cliff Walk along Bray Head out to Greystones.
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.
The Bray St. Patrick's Carnival and Parade is presented by Bray & District Chamber to celebrate Saint Patrick's Day, and is a five-day festival of carnival events, parades and live entertainment.
Bray also hosts a yearly silent film festival, the Killruddery Film Festival in Killruddery Gardens.Bray Jazz Festival takes place annually on the May bank holiday weekend, and includes performances by jazz and world music artists.
The annual Bray Summerfest takes place over six weeks in July and August, and includes free entertainment, live music, markets, sporting events, and carnivals. Performers who have headlined include Mundy, Brian Kennedy, the Undertones, the Hothouse Flowers and Mary Black. In 2006, over 60,000 visitors attended the festival weekend in mid-July.
Bray's pubs and restaurants include the first Porterhouse bar, who brew 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.
There are twelve fully licensed restaurants, several unlicensed restaurants and cafes, and fast food outlets in Bray. 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.
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 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 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 2012 film Byzantium, part of which was shot in the Bray Head Inn. Neil Jordan's 1991 film The Miracle is set in Bray.
Bray hosts a number of theatre groups including the Square One Theatre Group and Bray Arts. The principal venue is the Mermaid Arts Centre, together with some smaller halls.
Music sessions are held in pubs like the Hibernian, the Harbour Bar and the Martello. Music education forms is available 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. There is also a Bray School of Dance.
Bray is home to League of Ireland 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. The local Gaelic Athletic Association club is Bray Emmets. Established in 1885, the club hosts the annual All-Ireland Kick Fada Championship.
There are a number of golf clubs and pitch & putt courses in the area, including Bray Golf Club and Old Conna Golf Club. Bray is also host to Bray Bowling Club, which trains in Fáilte Park, and there is 10 Pin Bowling at the Bray Bowling Alley.
There is fishing in both the River Dargle and on the sea coastline, and a number of clubs locally, including Bray Head Fishing Club and Dargle Anglers Club. Other clubs and facilities in the area include Bray Wheelers Cycling Club, Brennanstown Riding School, Bray Sailing Club,and Wicklow Lawn Tennis Club - the latter founded in 1894 and located on Vevay Road.
There are approximately 13 primary schools in the Bray area, including national schools (like Saint Cronan's Boys' National School), gaelscoileanna, a co-educational day school (St. Gerard's School), and schools for special needs. Secondary schools in the area include Saint Brendan's College and Presentation College, Bray. A number of "English as a foreign language" and third-level schools also operate locally, including Bray Institute of Further Education.
Former or current residents of the town have included: