Liffey and O'Connell Bridge, in Dublin
|Origin||Mt. Kippure, County Wicklow|
|Mouth||Irish Sea at Dublin Bay|
|Length||~125 km (75 mi)|
|Source elevation||~500 m (1,640 ft) (much at 0 to 30m)|
|Avg. discharge||average 13.8 m3/s (3.7 in Aug. to 29.8 in Dec.)|
The Liffey (An Life in Irish) is a river in Ireland. It flows through the centre of Dublin. The river supplies much of Dublin's water. Major rivers that flow into the Liffey are the River Dodder, the River Poddle and the River Camac.
History of the name[change | change source]
The river was called An Ruirthech, meaning "fast (or strong) runner" before it was called Liffey. The word Liphe (or Life) was the name of the plain (flat area of land) through which the river flowed but was later used to name the river itself. It was also known as the Anna Liffey, possibly because of the Irish for "River Liffey" - Abhainn na Life which sounds like "Anna Liffey" in English.
Flow[change | change source]
The Liffey starts with a lot of small streams in the Liffey Head Bog between Kippure and Tonduff in the Wicklow mountains. It flows for around 125 km (78 mi) through counties Wicklow, Kildare and Dublin. It flows into the Irish Sea at the mid-point of Dublin Bay. Most of its length is in Kildare.
The Liffey does not have any natural lakes, and has only a few islands. There are a few areas with rapids, mostly as the river comes close to Dublin city.
[change | change source]
The River Liffey in Dublin city was used for many centuries for trade. The Vikings already used the river, and it was used until recent times. It is connected to the River Shannon via the Grand Canal and the Royal Canal. This connects Dublin to the west of Ireland by water.
Water supply[change | change source]
Around 60% of the Liffey's flow is used for drinking water, and to supply industry. Much of this makes its way back into the river after it is cleaned in wastewater treatment plants. A popular myth is that Liffey water is used to make Guinness beer, but this is not true. Guinness uses water piped from the Wicklow mountains.
Traffic[change | change source]
In recent years, the only regular traffic on the river within the city is a boat which runs guided tours along the River Liffey through Dublin City centre. Downstream of the East-Link bridge, the river is still mainly used for commercial and ferry traffic.
Recreational use in Dublin[change | change source]
The river is used by private, university and Garda rowing clubs in Chapelizod. The Liffey Descent canoeing event covers a 27 km (17 mi) course from Straffan to Islandbridge. That race has been held every year since 1960. The Liffey Swim takes place every year in late August or early September between Watling Bridge and The Custom House.
Bridges[change | change source]
History[change | change source]
The earliest stone bridge over the Liffey was the Bridge of Dublin. It was built by the Dominicans in 1428. It survived well into the 18th century. It replaced an earlier wooden bridge (Dubhghalls Bridge) on the same site. Island Bridge was added in 1577.
When Dublin became important for business in the 17th century, 4 new bridges were added between 1670 and 1684. They were Barrack, or Bloody Bridge, (what is now Rory O'More Bridge), Essex Bridge (Grattan Bridge), Ormond Bridge (O'Donovan Rossa Bridge) and Arran Bridge.
The oldest bridge still standing is the Mellows Bridge. It was built in 1764 after the Arran Bridge (which was there before) was destroyed by floods in 1763.
The first iron bridge was the elegant Ha'penny Bridge built in 1816. The newest bridge is the Samuel Beckett Bridge opened in December 2009. It is a suspension bridge, it can move to allow river traffic to pass. 
Present day[change | change source]
The river divides the Northside from the Southside of Dublin. It has a lot of bridges, mostly open for vehicular traffic (cars, trucks, buses etc.). Large bridges are the West-Link Bridge on the M50 motorway, the Seán Heuston Bridge and O'Connell Bridge.
Bridges outside of Dublin include the Liffey Bridge at Celbridge, "The Bridge at 16" (a 19th century pedestrian suspension bridge), and the Leinster Aqueduct - which takes the Grand Canal over the Liffey at Caragh.
Popular culture references[change | change source]
References[change | change source]
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to: Liffey|
- Dublin Castle - Prehistoric Dublin - Chapter 1
- 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
- IrishShips.com - Background on the Guinness boats on the Liffey
- Phillips M, Hamilton A. Project history of Dublin's River Liffey Bridges, Proccedings of the Institution of Civil Engineers - Bridge Engineering 156, December 2003, issue BE4, pages 161-179.
- Irish Times - Samuel Beckett Bridge opens - 11 December 2009
- Dublin City Council - Samuel Beckett Bridge