When Stephen and Mulligan stand "looking towards the blunt cape of Bray Head that lay on the water like the snout of a sleeping whale," they cannot actually see it from the Sandycove tower. But this prominent landmark, praised as one of the glories of Ireland in Cyclops, is not far south of where they stand, adjacent to a prosperous seaside community where Molly and Bloom once took a small boat out on the waves.
Finerty's photograph from the 1890s shows the seawall promenade that runs toward Bray Head along a 1.6 km walkable beach. This elegant mile-long promenade was built during the Victorian era, at a time when moneyed middle-class Dubliners were moving to Bray to escape the press of city life while remaining within commuting distance. The extension of the Dublin and Kingstown Railway to the town in 1854 transformed Bray into a comfortable suburban resort destination.
Joyce would have known the town well, as his family lived there on Martello Terrace from 1887 to 1892, when they were still comfortably well off. The Bray home is represented in A Portrait of the Artist, in the magnificent Christmas dinner scene in which Simon Dedalus squares off against Dante O'Riordain over the tragic death of Charles Stewart Parnell.
 The fact that Bray Head cannot be seen from the Tower raises the question of whether Joyce's memory failed him when he described Stephen and Mulligan looking in that direction. But the narrative says only that they are looking "towards" the cape. In an article in JJQ 20 (1982), "Can Bray Head Be Seen from the Martello Tower?," Robert Boyle concludes that Joyce probably knows what he is doing, and is representing Stephen thinking of Bray "in the mind's eye," being "drawn by memories of his mother and of the earliest shelter he could remember leaving, as he intends to leave this tower" (131).