Dargle Valley, Bray to Enniskerry.
This walk takes you from Bray’s southern suburbs into the leafy wilds of the Dargle river valley, to finish in the majestic parkland of the Powerscourt Demesne. There’s a great variety of scenery throughout, some quirky spots of interest, all packed into an hour and a bit over gently undulating terrain. A round trip takes twice that, and whatever you want for a half way stop. Public transport is available between Bray and Enniskerry, if a one way trip is enough.
Bray Town Hall makes a good start point. The building, from 1881, is in the Tudor revival style. It hosts the chambers of the Bray Town Council upstairs, downstairs is a MacDonalds. Taking the right hand fork, Killarney Road winds upwards through tree-lined suburbia. At Fairyhill, less than a mile on, a mysterious copse of trees conceals an ancient stone cross. This is attributed to St. Saran, a student of St Kevin of Glendalough. He gives his name to the road, which is Cill Sarain (Saran’s church) in Gaelic.
The vista opens up at the crest of the hill, with a wonderful view of the Great Sugar Loaf and the Wicklow Mountains beyond. Take a right at the lights, down a short suburban lane. At the junction the route goes to the left. Ardmore studios, the home of Irish film is off to the right. Films from The Blue Max to Excalibur, and tv series the Vikings and Penny Dreadful have been shot here. Bray, with its varied landscape and streetscape, has stood for a variety of locales. So, walking in the environs, it is not unusual to come across nests of vikings, Irish rebels or even futuristic and fantastical beings.
In the real world, we continue south to the end of Herbert Road. A few hundred yards on, this drops sharply in hairpin bends towards the motorway. At Richmond Park estate on the left, there’s a short woodland pathway, the sort that small adventurous boys would adore. Rejoining the road briefly, the entrance to the metal bridge is on the right. This impressive span takes you across the N11.
On the western side is the confluence of the Dargle and Cookstown rivers. The main road leads directly to Enniskerry, but we take the left hand fork which winds uphill for a few hundred yards. Near the crest of the hill, we spot the entrance into the Dargle valley path. There’s an interesting diversion from the main path where you can take the left hand fork leading down to the river. There’s a delightful pool here at the base of a short fall in the river. Well worth a look and a little time for contemplation, or whatever.
Retracing our steps, we rejoin the main path. The journey takes us through rough woodland along a well-beaten path. A mile or so along here, we come to Lover’s Leap, just off the main path on the left. This dizzy outcrop is poised above the thickly wooded glen carved out by the river. It’s a wonderful place to spend some time suspended above the world.
Eventually, the path lead onto the road near Enniskerry. Veering to the right, we quickly find the turn for the Powerscourt estate. The entrance road leads through mature beech trees with majestic views to the Sugarloaf mountains to the south. The estate house boasts a garden centre, craft shops and a self-service restaurant. The patio has to-die-for views over the famous gardens to the mountains.
Returning to the main road, the picturesque village of Enniskerry is downhill to the left. There are antique shops. coffee shops and a couple of good watering holes, for drink and food. The main road winds back to the motorway along the Cookstown River. There’s a pathway the full distance. Returning to the metal bridge, we can retrace our steps to Bray. or return via Herbert Road. This retains some of its rural character, running parallel to the Dargle which it meets at the bridge below the town, where Bray itself was first formed.