From ‘Guide to the County of Wicklow’ by Rev. G.N. Wright
Published by Baldwin, Cradock and Joy, Paternoster Row (London) 1822
The town of Bray is situated upon a river of same name, the boundary of the county Wicklow, ten miles from Dublin, and within less than a quarter of a mile of the sea; part stands on the Dublin side of the river, but the greater portion is in the county Wicklow. On every side are gentlemen’s seats, improved in the most expensive manner, and with admirable taste. Near the bridge, on the Dublin side, is Ravenswell, formerly the seat of the Rowleys, but now let to yearly tenants; and, at the upper end of the town, on the Kilruddery road, are several exceedingly neat cottages, which lot for the season at rents of nearly 100 l. each. Behind the town, as you approach from Dublin, rises Bray head, a lofty and commanding promontory, its outline bold and irregular, its colour always dark and gloomy, and its sides precipitous and rugged; this, we mentioned, was seen by the traveller under very peculiar and pleasing circumstances, for the first time, from the Killiney Hills. The river of Bray, which is the same that flows through the Dargle, is spread over a wide waste of moory strand, for a distance of a mile from the town: the body of water is not considerable, while the fall is sufficiently great; so that, by a little embanking, and the erection of one or two weirs between the Dargle and the mouth of the river, this valley and the trout fishery would be much improved, a great quantity of land, now barren, recovered, and the number of water-falls would form a series of pretty objects in the drive towards the Dargle.
Bray is a rectory in the diocese of Dublin: the church, which stands on the river’s side, is tolerably large and comfortable, and ornamented with a steeple and spire. Divine service is attended in summer by great numbers of persons of rank and respectability, the neighbourhood being still a fashionable bathing place. There is a regular post here, and two Fairs are held in each year, on the 1st of May and the 20th of September, where great quantities of frize and flannel are exhibited for sale, and some black cattle and sheep. In the town of Bray is Quin’s famous hotel ; his house is large, and kept with neatness, regularity, and elegance; his charges moderate, and the accommodation and attendance cannot he excelled. Quin’s chaises are superior in decoration and style of equipment to any thing in England; and, besides these, he is supplied with a number of handsome barouchos, for the accommodation of parties visiting the beautiful scenery in this neighbourhood, and in every part of Wicklow. Quin was the first person who introduced an elegant and improved style of posting into this kingdom, and has carried it to such a degree of perfection that he is never likely to be rivalled. Had there been many such improving and spirited persons placed on the head of respectable establishments through the kingdom, intercourse and civilization would have advanced more rapidly, and Ireland had been spared the censure and the laugh raised against her, by one of her most distinguished novelists, in the story of the Knockacrockery Post-boy.
In front of the inn are the arms of the Earl of Meath, to whom most of the town of Bray belongs. There is an old castle at Bray, near which a desperate battle was fought in 1690, between the armies of William and James. Here are, also, a handsome Roman Catholic Chapel and a barrack for infantry. The road in front of Quin’s hotel leads to the seashore; the strand is shelving and pebbly, and bathing is practicable at all hours. No attempt has ever been made to improve the harbour, so that only small craft come near this town; there is neither quay, wharf, nor pier. It was once suggested to construct a rail-way from the mountains, through the vale which the Bray river waters to the river’s mouth, and there erect a pier, where the mountain granite could be exported, for the purposes of building in other places; but this suggestion appears to have been rejected without any examination.
Following the coast to Bray Head, a work of pleasing difficulty is presented, the ascent to its summit, an elevation of 807 feet above low water; this can be accomplished by a little perseverance, but it is quite impossible to climb round the precipitous cliffs which hang over the see. In this dark and inaccessible brow, the curlew, cormorants, and gulls build their nests, and on the approach of a storm, or being disturbed by any unusual noise, they endeavour to rival the solemn rolling of‘ the waves by their loud and melancholy screams, while they darken the chasm, in whose front they have built their nests, by flying from rock to rock in wild and unmeaning confusion.
Bray Head* is composed chiefly of quartz rock, divided into two great masses, the division between them being marked by a hollow in the middle of the hill; but the coast around the head-land consists of numerous successions of stratified rocks, which ascend part of the northern and eastern brows of the head. Upon the strand, on each side of this promontory, are found pebbles, white and almost pellucid, which strike fire but weakly, being imperfect crystals. Various coloured pebbles are also found all along the Wicklow coast, bearing a resemblance, according to Rutty, to Egyptian; these strike fire with steel, and cause no ebullition with acids ; they admit of cutting, and receive a high polish.
* Perhaps it was so named from some fancied resemblance it bears to a neck, which is called Braighe, in Irish, or Bri, a hill – Harris.