Discovering Bray Head in County Wicklow, Ireland

Bray Head, County Wicklow, Ireland

Bray Head, County Wicklow by Karen J. Newhouse of CapallGlas Studio

The headland near Bray, in County Wicklow, had appeared in many of my photographs of the coastline, but always from a distance. I wanted to see it for myself. So on a day I did not have classes, I took a DART ride down from Dublin to walk around.

Bray is a seaside resort town, a nice place to visit. There is a beautiful promenade along the water, and as I walked alone on a quiet morning, I was carefully observed by the rooks lining the railing. Rooks are very large cousins to crows, rusty black with heavy beaks. They can be intimidating as they watch you pass by, discussing you amongst themselves with mumbling coughs.

I had noticed a slight blur at the top of Bray Head when I took some photographs from Killiney Hill, further north. That blur resolved into a large cross, which I saw as soon as I got off the DART at the Bray station. I was hoping to find if there was a way up to it.

Trekking to the Top

Later, I found sources describing a ‘well-worn path’ that led to the cross. I must have missed that route, or my definition of ‘well-worn’ is different than most. At one point I found myself working my way sharply upward through a stand of pine trees, using the trunks to pull myself up, knowing I would need to find another pathway down because it was too steep.

Friends of mine, heading to Ireland for a hiking tour, asked what I wear to walk about in Ireland. I showed them my hiking boots and heavy, oilskin coat. They did not heed my advice and returned from their trip with their lightweight, nylon hiking clothes in tatters. My coat can get even heavier with pockets containing sketchpad, pencils, water, and chocolate. But shrugging my way, unscathed, through the six foot, spiny gorse bushes on the hike up Bray Head made it all worth while.

Sitting on the base of the cross on Bray Head, I had a celebratory rest with a bottle of water and a bit of chocolate. The view of misty morning hills was spectacular. Unbelievable layers of receding hills and rolling mists on a damp January day with silvery, ethereal sunlight.

My photographs of the day are on black and white film, and I am pleased they are. Colors were not as compelling as the rich, monochrome depth of sepia-toned January hills with dark, wet stones and ragged winter gorse all softened with silvered fog.

Leaving the Hill Behind and Entering the Silence

I left the hill reluctantly, hunting for another way down the steep and rocky slope. I found a pathway that circled around to a gentler incline and ambled slowly, taking in the scenery.

There was a scar in the gorse, and I went to see if it was a fire, as gorse can smolder unseen for some time before catching a breeze to flare on a dry day. It was an old mark, cold and wet. After bending to look at the black ashes, I straightened up and noticed….silence.

I had walked into a bowl-shaped depression, and all sound had ceased. No sounds from the city below me, no wind, no sounds of the sea. Nothing but the pulse of my own heart and the suddenly loud rasp of fabric as I turned to look around and my camera case moved across my shoulder.

Unmoving and silent, I watched as a hooded crow flew out of the mists. His wings loudly whispered with every wing-beat as he flew past me, close enough to touch. Pale sunlight flickered silver across his glossy, black feathers. He flew over the edge of the rocks, dipped down to the sea, and out of sight.

Inhaling a deep lungful of damp air, I realized I had been holding my breath.

The sun came out and warmed the hills as I walked out of the silence and into the noise; the mists chose that moment to recede. Oddly irritated by the noises of the train and the loud conversations of the other passengers, I rode the DART back to Dublin.

Submitted by Karen J. Newhouse. Her Ireland-inspired artwork can be found at CapallGlas Studio.

Author: Guest

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  1. what an incredible experience!! i’d love to see more photos. i’d also have loved to be a mouse in your pocket – the views (and the chocolate)!

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    • We were living on brayhead but quite where I do not know. Only know that my father built a well on bray head as in 1940 there was no water up there. It was the 1st house with a well.We left there after I was born in 1944. I am trying to find any history of the place.

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  2. This place looks amazing. Your post makes me want to get out in the fresh air and head for the hills.

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  3. Hey, Bray Head’s a 1/2 mile from my house. Great post, but you can walk up there in sneakers. There is a “well-worn” trail.

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  4. love it!

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  5. Hello! Thank you for the input and suggestion about the ‘well worn’ trail. I did find it on the way back down. I posted a few more photos of the trip to my website for those who would like to see a bit more of the area.

    I am totally jealous of your proximity to the area John, and hope to return there again. Perhaps I will share a tale of the Bray-Greystones cliffwalk. With photos.

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  6. Hi there, I found your website via Google whilst searching for a related topic, your website got
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  1. Sunday Morning Reading | Irish Fireside - […] Discovering Bray Head – Karen Newhouse climbs to the top of Bray Head the hard way… which makes the…

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