By Alice Gledhill

Gorgeous views, luxurious hotels, and stunning photos: You don’t always have to go far for an amazing getaway

With beautiful beaches and stunning mountains, gorgeous restaurants and wonderful hosts, Bray is one of Ireland’s finest gems to explore. Sat between Dublin and Wicklow, the urban seaside town has everything to offer and is just an easy £13 coach ride away from the airport.

Longing for a quick getaway, I booked a spontaneous two-night trip in September. I had never been to Ireland before, but being just a two-hour flight away I thought it the perfect short escape. I stayed alone in a gorgeous hotel called The Martello, and the service was impeccable.

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Rocking up at 1am was no bother for the eager-to-please staff who warmly greeted me and insured I had everything I needed for the night. They had put me in room 101 but it certainly wasn’t full of unpleasant things!

Small but comfortable, I had booked a single room for just £150 so was delighted to find I had a double bed. Looking forward to the next two days ahead, I fell straight asleep.

Since I arrived in the dark and rain, I wasn’t able to appreciate the grandeur of the hotel until morning.

Heading out for the day, I found that The Martello boasts of a cosy bar, fancy restaurant and sheltered outdoor area, all facing the sea. I continued to be amazed at the modest prices of my accommodation given all the luxury it presented.

Eager to explore my new surroundings and as a nature-lover rather than a city-girl, I got a cab to the Powerscourt Waterfall, just outside of Wicklow’s infamous mountains.

Wicklow is known as ‘The Garden of Ireland’ and it is easy to see why, especially with such glorious weather. I had done a bit of research into the National Park, but none of the pictures I had seen did justice to the scenery before me.

The Irish may be known for their luck, but it was I who felt supremely fortunate to have found such a magnificent sight.

A huge waterfall twinkling in the sun cascading down a vast rocky wall left me feeling like a Romantic poet dumbfounded by the world’s beauty. It didn’t look real.

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Still thinking I could be dreaming, I was able to clamber upon the rocks and get up close to the downpour, taking the cold spray on my face as evidence of it all being real. After filling my phone’s memory with snaps of the landscape, I leisurely waded in the glistening stream.

Being a weekday afternoon, I practically had the place to myself, but I noticed that there were facilities for a BBQ and camping. It struck me that the park was open to over-night groups but still so clean and natural.

It certainly seems like a haven for nature-lovers looking for a pretty camping spot, or just a day trek. There is a small food kiosk (you have to try the chips!) and a little playground for kids, making it the ideal family location for a summer trip like mine.

Having run out of daylight, I returned to my hotel. I was hungry after so much walking and rock-hopping, so I wasted no time in finding a table in The Martello’s upstairs restaurant.

The décor was classy against dark mahogany wood, blanketed by soft golden lighting and the service was just as high quality.

Scanning the drink menu I elected for a fruity cocktail, pardoning the hefty price of £10. What arrived could have been a meal in itself! More acquainted with Weatherspoon’s watered-down drinks, I found myself refreshingly tipsy by the generous portion of alcohol. Ireland knows how to drink after all!

Before too long my main came – a slow-cooked lamb shank with rosemary, gravy and herby mash with greens. It melted in my mouth and was definitely one of the best roasts I’ve ever had!

To finish I had an extravagant Belgium waffle with lots of calories… erm, chocolate I mean! It was so much of a show-stopper that the group on the table opposite me even apologised for gawking.

The Martello’s food is exquisite and so fairly priced. Two cocktails, a main and dessert set me back by less than £40. I couldn’t fault it and it was a wonderful end to my last night in Bray.

Before having to catch the coach back to Dublin airport, I enjoyed the rest of my break on the sandy parts of Bray’s quiet beach, a nice change from Brighton’s pebbly seafronts. Another warm day, I dipped into the sun-kissed sea and even came upon a secluded part of the beach hidden by grassy cliffs, so I practically had the place to myself!

I continued on aimlessly and everyone I passed gave me a warm ‘hello’ and a nod of the head (apparently that’s very typical of Irish culture).

I eventually came to the Bray Head Cliff Walk, and venturing further up I looked upon Greystones, the neighbouring town to Bray.

The views from the cliffs were captivating (if a little cloudy) and I was sad to be leaving so soon.

I will definitely be returning to Ireland; I loved Bray and Wicklow and hope to explore more of Dublin next time. It was also very refreshing to be by myself and take things at my own pace.

I think taking a holiday, going to an event or eating out alone are underrated. For a short break or longer holiday, Ireland is such a welcoming and beautiful place to visit.45665157_2290302801188604_5925597495882153984_n.jpg

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