Bray Head Loop is a 6.2 mile loop trail located near Bray, Wicklow, Ireland that offers scenic views. The trail is rated as moderate and primarily used for hiking and walking.
Climb the summit overlooking this Victorian seaside resort, returning via a dramatic clifftop path. Towards the southern end of the DART line and just over the border with Dublin is the town of Bray, County Wicklow. One of its main attractions is the cliff path between Bray and the village of Greystones that winds its way around the great mass of Bray Head, which rises above the town to a height of 241 metres (791 feet). This guide follows a trail up to the summit Bray Head and then descends to the cliff path for the return trip to Bray. The headland is made of quartzite, formed during the Cambrian period around 500 million years ago and among the oldest rock formations in the world. Important fossils of sea urchins and algae have been found in the rocks. Today, Bray Head is cloaked in heather and woodland and is home to a number of rare plants as well as being an important habitat for sea birds. There is also a (rarely seen) herd of feral goats living on the Head. Although there is evidence of human activity in the Bray area dating as far back as the Stone Age, there does not seem to have been any substantial settlement here until the arrival of the Normans to Ireland in 1169. The Norman knight Sir Walter de Ridlesford built a castle in 1174 and named it Bree Castle, from which the town takes its name. The land encompassing Bray Head, the Little Sugar Loaf (or Giltspur mountain) and the valley in between was held the Abbey of St Thomas in Dublin from the 13th century until the dissolution of the monasteries by Henry VIII in 1545. The king granted the the lands to Sir William Brabazon, who was vice-Treasurer and Grand Receiver of Ireland. Thus began the Brabazon family's long association with Bray, which continues to the present day. Sir William's grandson, also called William, was created the first Earl of Meath in 1627 and built Kilruddery House, which lies in the valley between Bray Head and the Little Sugar Loaf and remains the family estate to this day. For most of its existence, Bray was small village, centered on a church, castle and mill until the arrival of the railways in the 19th century, which brought prosperity to Bray as it began to be promoted as a tourist destination. The town grew rapidly, trading on its reputation as the "Brighton of Ireland", drawing visitors from all over Ireland as well as from England and Scotland. Bray's appeal as a holiday resort declined from the 1970s onwards with the arrival of cheap package holidays to the Mediterranean. Today Bray exists largely as a dormer town for Dublin, thanks to the railway, as well as being a centre for light industry and manufacturing and has mostly avoided suffering the decay that similar seaside towns in Britain have experienced. Nevertheless the somewhat faded Victorian seaside charm of the town continues to attract many day-trippers to enjoy the esplanade or to climb Bray Head or to walk the cliff path to Greystones.