By Pauline O’Riordan
Living in Dublin on the east coast of Ireland means I have access to many beaches in the bay area and beyond. My favorite place is Bray, County Wicklow, known as the Garden of Ireland. It is a seaglasser’s paradise because the slowly eroding cliffs include materials from a disused landfill site. It is also the site of a glass factory that closed in 1952, where at the end of each day the leftover pieces were dumped into the sea. The access to this beach requires a bum slide—and in wet weather this can be very difficult—but it is well worth the trouble!
Please see note below for current information on the lack of access at Bray Beach.
During the last three years, I have spent many happy hours there, usually with the beach to myself, and the weight of sea glass I collect—often up to 6 kilos (13 pounds)—dictates when I leave each time.
I discovered beachcombing in the autumn of my life and have a particular interest in glass and pottery. I had no interest in making jewelry, wind chimes, or attractive displays.
My happiness came during the search and subsequent examination and storage of the loot in labeled plastic containers.
Slowly one shelf in a kitchen cupboard became two, and one cupboard became two, so something had to be done. By joining sea glass sites, I discovered many people were landlocked, so I had the idea of gifting my treasures. The big question was how to pay for the postage.
I came up with what I think is one of my best ideas: I absorb the postal costs and ask that the equivalent be donated to a local animal welfare shelter, thrift shop, or veterinarian.
To date, my postage costs have benefited animals worldwide by almost 2,500 euros.
Some of my pieces are jewelry quality, in particular the Hag Stones. A talented lady designs and sells items using them and all proceeds go to various worthy causes. I get frequent photos and updates of the money raised, making me glow inside and believe me, that feeling is worth a lot more than the cost of postage.
I charge postage for the second and subsequent gift packets because our postal service decided to hike up the costs and in order for me to keep gifting I have no alternative. Most packets weigh 1 to 2 kilos (2 to 4 pounds), but some of my huge chunks—some weighing 5 pounds—have been mailed around the world and are greatly loved and admired in their new homes.
In the past, I’ve arranged to take visitors to local beaches in the knowledge that they will be impressed with the variety of finds. For visitors on a tight schedule, it saved time when you are personally shown where and how to get to a good beach. Typically my visitors rented a car and included a beachcombing trip on their itinerary, or they were on a tour and fit in a visit to Bray before or after the tour. We also sometimes visited the beaches in Skerries, just a half hour from the Dublin Airport.
I am more than willing to tell people about other beaches around Dublin.
I like to think I’m an Ambassador for Ireland and send visitors back to their own countries with good memories of the beaches—not just of the rain!
Update, August 2022
Unfortunately, Bray beach has been sealed off for health and safety reasons due to people digging into the landfill cliffs, resulting in a dangerous overhang. The beach is no longer accessible and the beach has been cleared so there is no more beachcombing in Bray.
Thanks to Anna Roche Clark for the (sad) images of Bray beach after clearing.
This article appeared in the Beachcombing Magazine March/April 2019 issue.
I really enjoyed your article. I’m glad you got to enjoy Bray while it was still accessible.
Any chance of guiding my sister and I to any of your other favorite spots?
We’ll be visiting Ireland and Scotland from Dec 18, 2022 to Jan 1, 2023
If you aren’t still able to take visitors could you share some specific spots you’d recommend?
Hi Pauline. I am driving up the Bray coast day after tomorrow Monday October 10 and would love to do some Seaglass collecting. Where is our best spot now? Thanks so much!! Barbara
Hello Pauline and Beachcombers-
The “update” to this article should be more specific and informative. The beach on Bray has been totally redeveloped, dug up and a significant revampment of boulders has been installed. Not only is the “bum slide” now gone, the whole area is fenced off, inaccessible (with no enter signs and video cameras prohibiting trespassing) and there is zero glass left. All the old dump has been removed and there is no glass in this location any longer. I have been to this location several times over the years (it was a great dependable spot) and morn it’s loss particularly after making the trip from Boston to Ireland and ending up empty handed. Please let folks who are spending time and money to get here that it is no more!!
Good evening Pauline.
I see you have had a lot of requests for tours of the beach.
I am from Stellenbosch in South Africa.
I am coming to visit my friend in Ireland at the end of October and have asked her to take me to Bray for seaglass and pottery hunting.
It would be lovely to meet up with you if you have time.
Pauline, I loved your article. I am coming to Ireland at the end of August until Sept 5, 2022. If you are doing beach tours, two of us would like to come! This is the coolest!
Hello! I will be in Ireland soon for a trip. If you are still helping people find glass at the beach I would love to talk to you about doing so.
I live in Dun Laoghaire and I wondering if you have any sea pottery in your collection. Many thanks!
I enjoyed reading your article, you are a great ambassador for Ireland. I enjoy beach combing here in the states and would love an opportunity to beach comb with you. I’ll be in Dublin for a few days the first of September 2022, would you be available for a trip to the beach?
We went to the main beach in Bray yesterday and were disappointed to find no seaglass. Could you share where we should have gone or met us to take us there. We will be in Ireland through Sunday 6/5.
Hi Pauline, I’m studying abroad for the semester and have collected lots of seaglass while here. I’m from the United States – Connecticut, so we have lots of seaglass on the coast too. While here – I usually find loads at Blackrock, easily a few pounds of it. I’ve also found a good deal when visiting Dingle Penisula and Howth Beach. I’d absolutely love to visit your spot as well. I got a dremel before coming abroad which allowed me to get into jewelry and keychains with my glass. Along with seeing your beach, I’d love to get into something like you did with sending seaglass art to people who are landlocked and having them match prices for different organizations and charities.
Hi Pauline, I’m hopping you can tell me what bottles these items came from. I found 1 blue, 2 lime, 1 yellow and 1 teal green pieces. Found these yesterday morning in dublin. Thanks Carmel. I tired to send you a picture of them
Hi Pauline: I am a jewellery artist from the west coast of British Columbia, Canada and my work includes a lot of beach stones and sea glass. I am planning my first trip to Ireland and googled sea glass beaches (because you never know!) and stumbled across your article. We are tentatively planning a couple of days in Bray before meeting friends in Dublin. I prefer being out of the big cities. Would it be possible to take you up on your offer of bum-sliding to your beach? It would be an absolute highlight for me!!
If you aren’t busy on March 26th, would love a guide to find some sea glass in Bray.
A guided visit to your beach at Bray would be a highlight of a trip to Ireland. How would I contact you?
Thank you, A
Will be in Ireland March 2-15. 2022. Plan to take train to Bray while in Dublin to search for sea glass. However with that said would love to order some from you. I want to make Christmas trees.
Places we will visit
Dublin, Kilkenny, Cork,Tralee, Limerick,Galway, Cashel,Blarney,Killarney,Bunratty, Kildare
Any suggestions will be greatly appreciated.
I just came across your article while researching things do with my family while in Ireland. I’ve been collecting sea glass for around 10 years now and I try to find a beach anywhere we roam. This will be our first time to Ireland and this would be an amazing activity to add as well all love the thrill of the hunt. As of now, we don’t have any firm plans and I would love to plan a day to Bray. We are tentatively scheduled to be there between the 6th and the 9th of October 2022. I will even offer to bring a bit of sea glass from the states, specifically Chesapeake Bay VA, to add to your collection.
Hope all is well and I look forward to hearing from you.
Hi Pauline! Are you still taking visitors on sea glass hunting adventures? I’ll becoming to Ireland at the end of August 2022 and would love to have a guide to show me some great spots. If you aren’t still able to take visitors could you share some specific spots you’d recommend.
Hi Pauline how can I order some sea glass off you thanks
Hi Carol Collins, go down Baginbun Beach past Feathered on Sea i found lovely pieces of seaglass, also on Rosslare Harbour beach I found Chaney, broken China there. Good luck with your search
I love beachcombing for sea glass. I lived in Southern Ireland last year. Next september I’ll go back for a week doing a trip around the island with my family.
Could you tell me which is the best beach to find sea glass in Wicklow?. I’ll have few time for beachcombing and I’ll be very grateful if I am able to find some sea glass pieces in few time.
Thank you belle!!!
Hi, Cate! Pauline took me to her bum slide beach near the harbor in Bray! Have fun!
This is so wonderful! Wonderful to share the treasures with the landlocked! I wonder if yiu could share the location of the “bum slide” beach :)
Love what you do to help worthy causes. I donate seaglass jewelry to many organizations and fund raising, including animal welfare groups. Whatever seaglass you send me, I will be happy to make into jewelry to benefit local charities. Thankyou and hope to hear from you soon.
I would love to know where the beach is. My pup and I are always looking for quiet places to meander and find treasures.
I’d love to see that stretch of beach and to bring my niece. I can’t leave a beach without a pocket full of shells or stones or even better seaglass and driftwood. My niece is the same. Kindred spirits…and absolutely heaven if it’s just you and the waves. Is it easy to find.