River Liffey (Irish: An Life) is a river in Ireland, which flows
through the centre of Dublin. Its major tributaries include the River
River Poddle and the River Camac. The river supplies much
of Dublin's water and a range of recreational activities.
2 Course and system
2.2 Dams, reservoirs and falls
3 Navigation and uses
3.1 Water supply
3.2 Electricity generation
3.4 Recreational use
4.2 Present day
7 Annalistic references
8 Popular culture references
9 See also
Ptolemy's Geography (2nd century AD) described a river, perhaps the
Liffey, which he labelled Οβοκα (Oboka). Ultimately this led to
the name of the River Avoca.
The Liffey was previously named An Ruirthech, meaning "fast (or
strong) runner". The word Liphe (or Life) referred originally to
the name of the plain through which the river ran, but eventually came
to refer to the river itself. It was also known as the Anna
Liffey, possibly from an anglicisation of Abhainn na Life, the
Irish phrase that translates into English as "River Liffey". James
Joyce embodies the river as "Anna Livia Plurabelle" in Finnegans Wake.
Course and system
River Liffey flowing through
Newbridge College in Co. Kildare
The Liffey rises in the Liffey Head Bog between
Kippure and Tonduff in
the Wicklow Mountains, forming from many streamlets at Sally Gap. It
flows for 132 km (82 mi) through counties Wicklow,
Dublin before entering the
Irish Sea at its mouth at the
Dublin Bay, on a line extending from the Baily lighthouse
to the Muglin Rocks. It crosses from
County Wicklow into County
Poulaphouca and from
County Kildare into County
Leixlip, with most of its length being in Kildare.
The catchment area of the Liffey is 1,256 km2
(485 sq mi). The long term average flow rate of the river
is 18.0 m3/s (640 cu ft/s).
The Liffey system includes dozens of smaller rivers and streams. Early
tributaries include the Athdown Brook, Shankill River, Ballylow Brook,
Brittas River and Woodend Brook, as well as the substantial King's
Poulaphouca are the Lemonstown Stream,
and Pinkeen Stream, followed by the
Painestown River (with tributaries
including the Morell River), Rye Water (with tributaries including the
Lyreen), and the Griffeen River.
Dublin are the various
Phoenix Park streams on the left bank,
interspersed with right bank tributaries such as the Glenaulin Stream
and Creosote Stream.
Within the quays area tributaries include the River Camac, possibly
Colman's Brook, the Bradoge River, River Poddle, Stein River and the
River Dodder, some of which have numerous tributaries of their own.
In earlier times, the
River Tolka was also arguably a tributary of the
Liffey, or at least shared its mouth, but it now enters
distinctly, some distance to the north.
Dams, reservoirs and falls
There are dams for three ESB hydroelectric power stations along the
river, at Poulaphouca, Golden Falls and Leixlip. Major reservoir
facilities also exist at Poulaphouca. The Liffey does not feature
natural lakes, and has few islands.
Significant falls at
Poulaphouca and at Golden Falls were flooded by
reservoir construction. There remain areas of rapids, including as the
Towns along the river include Ballymore Eustace, Athgarvan, Kilcullen,
Newbridge, Caragh, Clane, Celbridge,
Leixlip and Lucan before the
river reaches the city of
Dublin as it approaches its mouth.
The Ha'penny Bridge.
Navigation and uses
Further information: History of
River Liffey in
Dublin city has been used for many centuries for
trade, from the
Viking beginnings of the city up to recent times. It
is connected to the
River Shannon via the Grand Canal and the Royal
Around 60% of the Liffey's flow is abstracted for drinking water and
to supply industry. Much of this makes its way back into the river
after purification in wastewater treatment plants. Despite a
misconception that the
Guinness brewery is one such commercial
user, the facility uses water piped from the Wicklow
ESB hydroelectric power stations exist along the river, at
Poulaphouca, Golden Falls and Leixlip, in addition to a number of
minor private installations.
"Sarah's Bridge on the River Anna Liffey" (1831) Sarah's Bridge is
today called Island Bridge. The then-new Wellington Monument is seen
on the left
A well-known sight on the Liffey up to the 1990s, the Lady
Patricia and Miranda Guinness cargo ships were used to export
Guinness from the St. James's Gate Brewery.
As of the early 21st century, the only regular traffic on the river
within the city is the Liffey Voyage water tour bus service, which
runs guided tours along the
River Liffey through
Dublin City centre.
Departing from the boardwalk downstream of the Ha'penny Bridge, the
Spirit of the Docklands was built by Westers Mekaniska in
Sweden as a
50-passenger water taxi. Its variable ballast tanks (not unlike a
submarine) and low air draught mean that at low tide it can float
high, but at high tide it can ride low and still pass below the
Downstream of the East-Link bridge, the river is still mainly used for
commercial and ferry traffic, with some recreational use also. High
speed trips out the mouth of the Liffey were also previously available
from Sea Safari.
The 2007 Liffey Swim passes the
Upstream from the city, at Chapelizod, the river is used by private,
university and Garda rowing clubs.
The Liffey Descent canoeing event, held each year since 1960, covers a
27 km (17 mi) course from
Straffan to Islandbridge. The
Normal Tidal Limit (NTL) of the river is
Islandbridge (weir). The
Liffey Swim takes place every year in late August or early September
between Watling Bridge and The Custom House.The
of river accommodates a number of rowing clubs including Trinity
College, UCD, Commercial, Neptune, and the Garda rowing club
The Liffey is widely used for recreational activities – such as
canoeing, rafting, fishing, swimming, significant facilities are
at Poulaphouca, Kilcullen, Newbridge, where a seven-acre Liffey Linear
Park has been developed, and other facilities are located further
Leixlip and other towns.
The earliest stone bridge over the Liffey of which there is solid
evidence was the Bridge of
Dublin (on the site of the current Fr.
Mathew Bridge), built by the Dominicans in 1428, which survived well
into the 18th century. This four-arch bridge included various
buildings such as a chapel, bakehouse and possibly an inn and
replaced an earlier wooden bridge (Dubhghalls Bridge) on the same
Island Bridge (a predecessor of the current bridge) was added in
With the development of commercial
Dublin in the 17th century, four
new bridges were added between 1670 and 1684: Barrack, or Bloody
Bridge, (the forerunner of the current Rory O'More Bridge), Essex
Bridge (Grattan Bridge), Ormond Bridge (O'Donovan Rossa Bridge) and
Arran Bridge. The oldest bridge still standing is Mellows Bridge,
(originally Queens Bridge) constructed in 1764 on the site of Arran
Bridge, which was destroyed by floods in 1763. The first iron bridge
Ha'penny Bridge built in 1816.
Farmleigh Bridge, also iron,
was built around 1872 at the end of a tunnel and connected Farmleigh
estate to Palmerstown.
21st century additions include
Seán O'Casey Bridge
Seán O'Casey Bridge (2005), Samuel
Beckett Bridge (2009), and
Rosie Hackett Bridge
Rosie Hackett Bridge (2014).
Jeanie Johnston at River Liffey.
See also: List of
Dublin bridges and tunnels
Dividing the Northside of
Dublin from the Southside, the Liffey is
today spanned by numerous bridges, mostly open to vehicular traffic.
These include the
West-Link Bridge on the M50 motorway, Seán Heuston
Bridge and O'Connell Bridge. There are 3 pedestrian bridges in the
city: the Millennium Bridge,
Seán O'Casey Bridge
Seán O'Casey Bridge and the Ha'penny
Bridge. 21st century additions include the Samuel Beckett Bridge
James Joyce Bridge (2003), both designed by Santiago
Crossings further upriver include the Liffey Bridge at Celbridge, "The
Bridge at 16" (a 19th-century pedestrian suspension bridge at what is
now the K Club), and the Leinster Aqueduct – which carries the Grand
Canal over the Liffey at Caragh.
Art works along the river and its quays include the Famine Memorial
Statues (near the IFSC) and the World Hunger Stone.
The song about Seamus Rafferty refers to the "bowsies on the quay";
However, from the late 20th-century there was some renewed development
on the quays, with the addition of linear parks and overhanging
There are quays on the north and south banks of the Liffey, extending
from the weir at
Islandbridge to Ringsend bridge over the river
Dodder, just before the East-Link toll bridge.
From west to east, the quays on the north bank are:
Bridgewater, Wolfe Tone, Sarsfield, Ellis, Arran, Inns, Ormond Upper,
Ormond Lower, Bachelors Walk, Eden, Custom House, and North Wall.
From west to east, the quays on the south bank are:
Victoria, Usher's Island, Usher's, Merchants, Wood, Essex, Wellington,
Crampton, Aston, Burgh, George's, City, Sir John Rogerson's, and Great
A panoramic view of Bachelors Walk taken from the opposite side, Aston
In December 2000, a
Bus Éireann bus, crossing the Liffey at Butt
Bridge, collided with another bus and skidded into the Liffey. There
were some injuries, but no-one was killed.
In July 2011, a long-term homeless man rescued his pet rabbit after it
had been thrown into the river. Diving off
O'Connell Bridge in front
of hundreds of people, videos of the rescue circulated on the
internet, and the man received an honour (and job offer at an animal
shelter) for his actions. The man who threw the rabbit
into the river was arrested.
Annals of Inisfallen
Annals of Inisfallen for the year 808, an entry reads:
AI808.2 A defeat [inflicted] by the
Laigin on Áed, son of Niall, at
the river of Liphe.
Popular culture references
Liffey quays at dusk
From Joyce to Radiohead, the Liffey is often referenced in literature
"riverrun, past Eve and Adam's, from swerve of shore to bend of bay,
brings us by a commodius vicus of recirculation back to Howth Castle
Finnegans Wake (first sentence of novel).
That is the first of a number of references to the Liffey in the Wake:
insofar as the book has characters, the female protagonist of the
novel, Anna Livia Plurabelle, is herself an allegory of the river.
A skiff, a crumpled throwaway, Elijah is coming, rode lightly down the
Liffey, under Loopline Bridge, shooting the rapids where water chafed
around the bridgepiers, sailing eastward past hulls and anchorchains,
between the Custom House old dock and George's quay.
James Joyce, Ulysses
She asked that it be named for her. – The river took its name from
the land. – the land took its name from the woman.
Eavan Boland, Anna Liffey
That there, that's not me – I go where I please – I walk through
walls, I float down the Liffey – I'm not here, this isn't happening
Radiohead, "How to Disappear Completely" from album Kid A
"Somebody once said that 'Joyce has made of this river the Ganges of
the literary world,' but sometimes the smell of the Ganges of the
literary world is not all that literary."
Brendan Behan, Confessions of an Irish Rebel.
"No man who has faced the Liffey can be appalled by the dirt of
Iris Murdoch, Under the Net.
"But the Angelus Bell o'er the Liffey's swell rang out through the
Canon Charles O'Neill, The Foggy Dew.
"You can keep your Michael Flatley with his tattoos on his chest
Fare thee well, Sweet Anna Liffey, it's the Ganges I love best
I found a place in India so far across the foam
You can call me Punjab Paddy, boys, I'm never comin' home!"
Gaelic Storm, "Punjab Paddy from album How Are We Getting Home?" .
Fare thee well sweet Anna Liffey, I can no longer stay
I watch the new glass cages, that spring up along the quay
My mind's too full of memories, too old to hear new chimes
I'm part of what was
Dublin in the rare ould times
Pete St. John, Rare Ould Times
A view upstream from Grattan Bridge, towards the
Four Courts (the
domed building), with Essex Quay and
Wood Quay on the right bank (left
of picture) and Upper Ormond Quay on the left bank (right of picture).
List of rivers in Ireland
Rivers of Ireland
Wikimedia Commons has media related to River Liffey, Ireland.
^ a b "
River Liffey Information". Irelandbyways.com. Retrieved 25
^ "Ireland" (PDF). Romaneranames.uk. Roman Era Names. Retrieved 1
^ Archived index at the Wayback Machine.
^ Byrne, F. J. 1973. Irish Kings and High-Kings. Dublin. p.150
^ As indicated by the caption of an engraving published in 1831
^ "Seanad Éireann – Vol 159, May, 1999 – Motion on National
Archives – David Norris (senator and Trinity lecturer) referencing
Georgian Society records". Oireachtas Debates (Hansard). 1999.
^ "Table of Reference". Rivers and their Catchment Basins. Ordnance
Survey of Ireland. 1958.
^ a b SERBD Report - Physical Description (Chapter) (PDF) (Report).
South Eastern River Basin District Management System. p. 38.
Archived from the original (PDF) on 3 March 2016.
^ "River Liffey". fishinginireland.info. Retrieved 25 January
^ "'Is it made with Liffey water?' Philip enquires of Guinness". Irish
Independent. 18 May 2011. Retrieved 21 August 2017.
^ "Frequently Asked Questions". Guinness.com. Archived from the
original on 11 June 2017. [I]s
Guinness made with water from the River
Liffey? [..] No. While [..] situated on the banks of the River Liffey
[..] the water used [..] comes from the Wicklow mountains
^ a b "Background on the
Guinness boats on the Liffey".
IrishShips.com. Archived from the original on 19 March 2006.
^ "Sea Safari". Sesafari.ie. Retrieved 20 August 2017. Tours Suspended
^ "Liffey River - River Guide". IWW.ie. IrishWhitewater. Retrieved 21
^ Project history of Dublin's
River Liffey bridges (PDF). Bridge
Engineering 156 Issue BE4 (Report). Phillips & Hamilton. December
2003. pp. 161–179.
^ Liffey Bridges Survey team (1987). The Liffey bridges from
Islandbridge to Eastlink: A historical and technical report. Liberties
Association. p. 4.
Guinness Bridge/Silver Bridge". Retrieved 3 December
Samuel Beckett Bridge
Samuel Beckett Bridge opens". Irish Times. 11 December 2009.
^ "Samuel Beckett Bridge".
Dublin City Council. Archived from the
original on 9 August 2011.
Rosie Hackett Bridge
Rosie Hackett Bridge to open at 6am tomorrow". Irish Times. 20 May
^ Kaufman, R (2014). Kaufman Green Guide Dublin. p. 132.
^ "Investigation launched into bus crash". RTE.ie. 4 December
^ "Honour for homeless hero who rescued rabbit". Evening Herald.
Retrieved on 12 July 2011.
^ "Reward for river rabbit rescuer". The Irish Times. Retrieved on 12
^ "Rabbit rescuer offered job at animal shelter". The Irish Emigrant.
Retrieved on 12 July 2011.
^ "Rabbit river rescue hero is offered animal care job". Evening
Herald. Retrieved on 12 July 2011.
^ "Award for
River Liffey rabbit rescuer". RTÉ News. Retrieved on 12
Places in County Kildare
County town: Naas
Bog of Allen
Hill of Allen
Geography of County Kildare
List of National Monuments in County Kildare
List of townlands of County Kildare
Mountains and hills of County Kildare
Rivers of County Kildare
Rivers of Ireland
Flowing to the Irish Sea
Flowing to the Celtic Sea
The Three Sisters
Flowing to the Atlantic
Tributaries of the Shannon
River names in italics indicate rivers which are partially or wholly
in Northern Ireland, with the rest being wholly in the Republic of
Dublin over the Liffey (west to east)
Liffey Railway Bridge
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