Ever since I started thinking about what I was going to do this summer, I knew that wherever I ended up, I wanted to do a little solo traveling for the first time. I’ve traveled by plane on my own to and from college, but I’ve never traveled on my own to a place where I don’t know anyone. I’ve always had someone waiting for me at the end of the trip. I wanted to experience more independence than ever this summer by traveling to a place where I have no connections.
I didn’t end up with the time (or money, really) to spend a whole weekend away, or even one night in a different city, so I chose to go on a day trip within County Dublin. The actual city centre that I’ve been spending most of my time in is pretty tiny compared to the rest of the county! There’s a lot to see, and it’s not too difficult to get around the area. So I planned to take the DART (Dublin Area Rapid Transit) on Saturday morning out to Bray (and maybe Dun Laoghaire and maybe wherever else looked interesting from the train) for the day!
On Saturday morning I woke up a little later than I planned, which is probably just what my body really needed. I took my time, since I had no one to meet, ate a good breakfast, packed up my purse and made sure my camera was charged up, and headed on my way to the nearest DART station. It was unfortunately a very overcast day that looked as if it could turn to rain at any second, so I made sure to bring a raincoat and a plastic bag to cover my semi-waterproof camera bag if needed. The Lansdowne Road station was about a 15-20 minute walk away from my apartment, and is right next to the stunning, glass-covered Aviva Stadium, where they play rugby. Apparently, it’s shaped like a giant rugby ball! (Is that the right term? Can you tell I know nothing about rugby?)
I topped up my newly purchased LEAP card (like a SmarTrip card in DC or a Charlie Card in Boston) at the station, and went through the (open, but I paid) faregates. The station was pretty empty when I got there! That always makes me a little bit nervous, but it was an open air station, and soon a few families came onto the platform as well. I had no idea what side of the tracks to stand on because the signage was a little confusing, so I ended up standing on the wrong side of the tracks, and watched the train I had aimed to take pass me by! The next train wasn’t coming for another 25 minutes – that reminded me a little of being at home on the DC Metro!
After I awkwardly made my way over to the right side of the tracks, I waited another 20 minutes or so, and finally the right train came by. Getting on was a little confusing, because you have to press a button on the door to open it once the train is fully stopped. I kind of stood there expecting the doors to open automatically, until I looked at the other people around me easily getting on the train, and I followed suit. The DART trains look a little old from the outside, but on the inside, they are clean, spacious, and have very comfortable seats. Remembering a recommendation from my boss to sit on the left side of the train for the best views, I found a seat, and the train started to move.
The sun started to shine and the clouds parted the minute the train pulled out of the station – no exaggeration! I took that as a good sign for the rest of the day. I definitely didn’t mind the view from the train. We passed gorgeous beaches, green grassy fields, and even went through tunnels in the hills. I felt like such a silly tourist taking photos out the window with my phone through the entire ride, but I couldn’t resist! I wanted to get off at every stop and explore, but knew I wouldn’t have the time for that. I had read about the Bray Cliff Walk from a guide book, and settled on taking the train to its second to last stop to check it out. At 11:39 on the dot, I stepped off the train in Bray, found a tourist map to get my bearings, and started exploring!
Bray is a beautiful seaside town with a mile-long promenade along the beach. I really only explored from the train station down to the beach, but there’s a lot more to Bray than what I was able to see! I hadn’t done any research ahead of time (shocking, I know) to see what was going on in Bray that weekend, and arrived to see a ton of (somewhat unappealing) carnival rides out on the promenade, along with a (very appealing) food and vendor festival! I walked from end to end, watched the rides, and went down on the beach for a little stroll – the beach is made up entirely of smooth rocks. It was nice to hear the waves gently crash in with the sound of happy children screaming on the rides in the background.
If you’ve seen my Instagram lately, or any of the photos from Ireland that I’ve been posting on Facebook, it will be pretty clear to you that I like food. I take a lot of photos of what I eat, because I think it’s a fun way to look back on a trip, a location, or an experience – if I have a great meal, my day is more likely to turn out awesome, where if I have a crappy gross meal, my day may take a turn for the worse. Food is a big part of travel to me, so naturally, I bypassed the expensive seafood restaurants and cute cafes of Bray to check out what food was available at the festival! There was a lot to choose from, but I was in the mood for a bit of a greasy meal, so I got a hot dog that was grilled on a big round suspended grill, and some chips (what we call fries in the US) with cheese and a bit of garlicky sauce. Not very healthy, but it made me very happy 🙂
After I had filled up on delicious, not-so-healthy food, I decided to walk the rest of the way down the promenade, following the crowds towards what I assumed would be the entrance to the Bray Cliff Walk. As I walked up the hill, I saw what looked to be a wet blue tarp ending in a massive pile of hay. It turned out to be a part of the summer festival they’re having in Bray, and was indeed a giant slip-n-slide! I waited for a bit to see if anyone would be coming down, but the event hadn’t actually started yet. So I snapped a picture, and headed further up the hill to find the start of the Cliff Walk.
There was no official sign for the Cliff Walk that I could find, so again, I sort of followed a group of people to a path that looked like it would lead out towards the cliffs. And I found it! By this time, it was already almost 2pm, and I knew the Cliff Walk was about 5.5km, but wasn’t sure how long it would take to walk it. I hurried along the beginning of the trail, not wanting to set myself up for a long, miserable walk in case it started to rain, so I didn’t get a good picture of the trail at the beginning. As I came to the first real lookout point, I came across a big group of students from Spain who were on the path as well, and, not wanting to get stuck behind a slow-moving group, kept hurrying along. It wasn’t until I reached the first marker that told me I was 2km away from Bray that I realized it was okay to slow down, take it all in, stop for pictures, and breathe a little bit. I was not racing against anyone, and really wasn’t racing against time. I guess the fact that I was alone on the trail, and that it was my first time to do something like it alone, made me a little nervous at the beginning. Once I started to move past those first feelings, I was really able to take in my surroundings. Even with the clouds in the sky, it was a gorgeous day, and I felt so lucky to be able to be in a beautiful place like this.
After I got past the halfway point, something clicked and I started to realize that, hey, I’m in IRELAND. I’m spending my Saturday exploring beautiful sea towns on the Irish coast, surrounded by these amazing sights, I’m doing it all on my own, and EVERYTHING IS OKAY. I just felt so happy to be there, and so lucky to have the opportunity to go. I know these thoughts might not make sense to anyone else, but I spend a lot of my time worrying and planning and thinking about all of the things that could possibly go wrong. There was something about this little travel experience that made those thoughts stop running through my head for a little while, and I was very grateful for that.
I continued down the path, filled with an increasing amount of joy and excitement. The Cliff Walk is pretty well-maintained, and passes through some beautiful areas of the coast. As I climbed one surprisingly steep hill, I looked out into the distance, and there was Greystones – the town at the end of the walk. I liked having that unexplored place in my sights for the rest of the way, and I definitely got a little snap-happy with my camera!
Just like at the beginning of the walk, there were no signs to signify the end! The trail leaves you by the harbor in Greystones, with no maps or signage to help you get into the downtown area, but with a great view of the sailboats out on the water. I was starting to feel a lot more tired, after all of the emotions and excitement of the walk had started to fade away. I also realized that I would have to find the Greystones train station soon to make sure there was a train I could catch later that day to get back to Dublin!
After a little searching, I found my way to the downtown, and the train station was right smack dab in the center of it all. Greystones is at the end of the DART line, and trains run through it pretty often, so I picked out a time to aim for, and went to find a cafe. I needed water, a little food, and some caffeine to keep me going for the rest of the day! I walked around the downtown area, coming across a cute little library and lots of nice storefronts. I settled on Vino’s Cafe, where I got a delicious iced chai latte, a berry crumble bar, and a lot of water! I had brought a book with me to read, so I spent the next hour or so relaxing in the cafe.
After I felt sufficiently rested, I headed out to walk around the town a little more. I came across a great organic grocery shop, The Happy Pear, where I got a few granola bars for future breakfasts and some sprouts (made locally!) for my salads. And of course, I got a latte at their cafe for the train ride home.
Finally, I made my way back to the train station, waited for about 15 minutes on the buggy platform, and got on the DART. The clean, cushy seats were very nice to have after a long day out! The sights on the way back were just as magnificent, but it was so interesting to see just how far the tide went out. An area of the water where people had been swimming earlier was now just rocks!
By the time I got to the Lansdowne Road station, the rain had started to pour (or lash as they say here in Ireland) and I was very glad to have brought my raincoat with me! I felt so lucky that it hadn’t rained at all while I was out exploring, especially on the walk. I arrived back at my apartment around 8 that night, soaked but very happy. I’m very glad that I stepped out of my comfort zone to do this little solo day trip!
Thanks for reading! Margaret