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Official Review by Martin McNelis, Stadium Journey Regional Correspondent
Forty minutes commute from Dublin is the coastal town of Bray and the Carlisle Grounds, home of Bray Wanderers FC. Set beside the sea in County Wicklow, 'the Seagulls,' as the club are known, are currently in the League of Ireland Premier Division and have been playing their home matches here since 1942, though as a venue it has been used for a variety of purposes dating as far back as 1862.
It is a quaint venue set back a matter of yards from the train station, next to shops and a couple of pubs, basically the average ground hopper's dream! The ground has had a few modern additions in the last decade with new seating installed in the main stand, and some wall/fence alterations due to a couple of alterations to the wall at the Railway End where the away fans are housed. It's most notable claim to fame is having the ground feature in the film "Michael Collins" which starred Liam Neeson, Julia Roberts, and Alan Rickman.
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Each area is rated from 0 to 5 stars with 5 being the best. The overall composite score is the "FANFARE Score".
The food options are available from a fast food van on the right hand side as you gain entry to the ground. The menu includes chips (€3), chips & curry sauce (€4), hot dogs (€4), burgers (€5), chocolate bars (€1.50), and crisps (€1).
Soft drinks are available in either bottles (€3), or cans (€2), Also available is Lucozade sport drink (€3), water (€2), tea, and coffee (€2 each).
Chips and curry sauce hit the spot and are great value, and would be the recommended concession item if you need a snack to get through the match.
The home fans have a small band of youngsters in the main stand who have a drum and create a bit of atmosphere. Depending on the opposing team and the amount of supporters they bring, it can be quite a lively venue.
Entering the Carlisle Grounds is by turnstiles on the corner of Quinsborough Road at the Railway End. Along from this are odd ticket booths that look like small hatches. The foot outlet is on the left and the club shop is on the right. There is a walkway that leads you to the away corner (to the right when you enter) which can also accommodate home fans. This is an all-seated open air end which has a small television gantry which is elevated right on the centre circle.
Behind the goal is vacant land and there is a limited standing area here if the sun shines you won't see much of the action on the pitch! On the corner are some basic toilet facilities and this leads to the covered 'Main Stand' on the Seymour Road end. It is all seated with a thick canvas type roof and runs the length of the pitch. It has a lot of thin metal supports which can obscure your view. The dug outs are situated in the centre of this stand. At the far end and behind the other goal there is limited standing, and interestingly there is an astro training pitch. This area is not specifically used and that's likely because the players and officials changing area is situated here.
The best unobscured view is in the open seating of the Railway End, providing an excellent view of both goals. The only down side would potentially be the weather, as you would be badly exposed in heavy rain. With the League of Ireland played predominantly through summer months, there will likely be more pleasant nights than not, making it more comfortable to watch a game.
The location for all the essentials is excellent. From the train station, football ground, pubs, restaurant/take away options, and hotels, all are in close proximity.
One recommendation is the P We Ton Chinese Restaurant, located at 11 Quinsborough Rd.
Stacks Sports Bar, The Boomerang Bar and Goldsmiths pubs are all welcoming places with televisions showing a variety of sports. The latter also has live music on late into the night.
The capacity fluctuates depending on what source information is obtained. The Carlisle Grounds has just over 3,000 seats, but the average home fixture attracts anything between 700-1,500.
The home fans are patient and supportive of a young team still finding their feet in the top flight.
The train is the prime source for travelling from north or south, but there is car parking available with a limited amount behind the Railway End goal and some side street parking slightly further away from the ground. The street parking is limited due to the permit holders for the main roads near the Carlisle Grounds and next to the shops.
Moving around the ground no problem and I was able to stand and sit in three areas without any issues or confrontation, including getting past the away support.
The pricing is quite reasonable with tickets available for adults (€15), students (€10), and senior citizens and children (€7). The Carlisle Grounds is a good value at 22 euros for an adult with concession.
It is a very pleasant, scenic journey travelling down to Bray from Dublin on the train and a good way to arrive for a match. It's a quiet town, but friendly enough and it is pleasant to have a number of facilities all in close proximity. The club shop is currently selling a book on their history for 10 euros which is excellent and has a lot of good information and photos. They also sell a massive back catalogue of Bray Wanderers' programmes and official Ireland International programmes.
Also outside the ground to the left of the turnstiles there is a Celtic Cross memorial which is for those who died in the Irish Civil War of the 1920s, as well as from the second world war.
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11 Quinsborough Rd
Bray, County Wicklow
+353 1 276 8935
Bray, County Wicklow
7 Quinsborough Rd
Bray, County Wicklow
+353 1 276 1100
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