Dublin’s famous river rises a mere 20km, as the crow flies, from the capital. However, from its source in County Wicklow, it meanders for 125km before emptying into Dublin Bay. In ancient times, the river was known as An Ruirthech which roughly translates as ‘the stampeding one‘ or ‘strong, fast runner‘ – well named as the river was prone to flash flooding (heavy rainfall in the Wicklow mountains continued to cause flooding right up until the last century when the construction of hydro-dams finally alleviated the problem). Liffey is derived from Magh Life – the plain of Life – a flat area of land through which the river flowed. (And just to confuse matters even further, another name is the Anna Liffey, which was named after the character Anna Livia Plurabelle from James Joyce’s Finnegans Wake).
Today, we’re going to walk the final 4km of the route, through the city centre, to the bay. We’ll be zigzagging over and back from bank to bank but we won’t stray off into any of the side streets, nor pass any of the city’s major attractions – that’s for another day.
This lovely stretch of river is just about 2.5km from our starting point. It still has a rural feel to it doesn’t it – hard to believe its so close to the capital.
We’re starting at Heuston Station – one of Ireland’s main railway stations. Here since the mid 19th century, most people don’t have time to admire the beautiful facade as they rush to catch their train!
Heuston Bridge was originally called The Kings Bridge. Many bridges were renamed following Independence (1922) to honour patriots (25 year old Seán Heuston was the youngest of those executed after the 1916 Easter Rising). The more recent bridges tend to honour writers (Joyce, Beckett).
This bridge carries the LUAS light rail line into town.
This is Guinness country and the importance of the industry to Dublin is reflected in the scale of its property here on the south side of the river. Arthur Guinness was a clever man – in 1759, he signed a 9000 year lease for the site!
At no extra expense!! The things I arrange for you all! This looks like the presidential cavalcade – our popular President, Michael D. Higgins, lives just a few minutes up the road.
This little park is a memorial to the Irish rebels who died in the 1798 Rebellion. It is also home to the Anna Livia sculpture. She used to sit on O’Connell Street but was moved to make place for the Spire. Anna Livia is a spirit, with her long flowing hair symbolising the flow of the nearby river. Most Dublin statues are rechristened by locals and this is no exception – She is fondly known as ‘the Floozie in the Jacuzzi’!!
Collins Barracks was an army base for about 200 years. The army moved out in 1997 and the site now houses Ireland’s Museum of Decorative Arts.
This is The Croppies’ Acre. The site is traditionally believed to have been used as a mass grave for Irish rebel casualties of the 1798 Rebellion. They were known as Croppies due to their short-cropped hair.
The oldest bridge still standing is the Mellows Bridge. In place since 1764, it is known as the old man of the river.
In the 1600’s, the then Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, the Earl of Ormond, began to redevelop the quays. Still pretty much a medieval city, houses along the Liffey faced away from the river and tenants used it as a rubbish and sewage dump. Ormond insisted on the front of houses facing the river.
St Paul’s is no longer an active Catholic Church but one of its claim to fame is that Captain Charles Cunningham Boycott married Annie Dunne here in 1852. After he retired from the army, Boycott came to Ireland and worked as an English land agent. As part of a national campaign for the 3 F’s – fair rent, fixity of tenure and free sale – Boycott was ostracised by his local community in Ireland. This campaign caused quite a stir in the newspapers at the time but the best part of the story is that it gave the English language the verb “to boycott“.
It was unusual to include a clock on the tower – this was more common on Protestant churches.
Time for a pint… The Brazen Head is Ireland’s oldest pub.
The eighteenth-century Four Courts houses the Supreme Court, the Court of Appeal, the Dublin Circuit Court and the High Court.
The building was bombarded during the Civil War (1922), and was almost completely destroyed. Probably most significant was the obliteration of the Public Record Office which resulted in the loss of about a thousand years of archives.
The courts were gradually rebuilt and reopened in 1932 but a lot of the interior grandeur was irreplaceable.
This is the notorious Wood Quay, site of an intense campaign of public outrage at the destruction of a significant archaeological find.
In the 1970’s, evidence of a major Viking settlement was discovered when Dublin Corporation began developing the quay. In 1978 the High Court declared the settlement a National Monument, but Dublin Corporation who actually owned the land, incredibly used a loophole in the law to allow them go ahead and build new civic offices on the site.
Poor compensation – a wooden sculpture outside the office block shows the brow of a viking ship.
At least the seagulls are happy!
Replicas of artifacts are inlaid on the footpath.
This piece by sculptor Betty Newman represents a Viking longboat.
Tucked in behind the longboat is Smock Alley Theatre. Opening in 1662, it drew the crowds until falling out of favour and closing in 1787. It then served as a warehouse until reopening as a Catholic Church in 1811. Two nearby churches were amalgamated and the theatre was now known as the Church of St. Michael and St. Johns (or ‘Mick and Jacks’ to the locals!). It continued up until 1989 as a popular early Mass venue for dockers coming and going to work and for young people heading home after a night out!
The last Parish Priest, Father Jack Murphy, earned the nickname Father Jack Flash for his quick mass. Dockers claimed you could order a pint of Guinness, go to his mass and be back before the pint had settled!
The church was deconsecrated due to dwindling parishioner numbers and the building reverted once again to a theatre.
Well this is not an architectural style you’ll see on every Dublin corner! The Sunlight Chambers at Grattan Bridge certainly catches the eye with its fancy windows, eaves and colourful frieze. The story is not particularly glamorous – its actually about soap and hygiene!
The building was constructed in 1901 as the Irish headquarters of Lever Brothers, the English soap and detergent manufacturers. A closer look at the friezes reveals people involved in the manufacture and use of soap: working the land to extract the raw materials, buying oils and scents, scrubbing and washing clothes.
The Clarence Hotel was built in 1852. 140 years later it was bought by Bono and The Edge from U2.
The Millennium Bridge is one of three pedestrian crossings on the river.
Time for another pint…..
The enterprising William Walsh owned not one but seven ferries to transport Dubliners from one side of the river to the other. For this service they paid the handsome fare of a half penny. As his ferries began to show their age and need repair, Walsh was told to renovate them or build a bridge. He decided to go ahead with the bridge – even though it would cost him the princely sum of £3,000. The bridge had turnstiles at either end and those wishing to cross were charged a half penny – the same amount they’d paid for the ferry. Although the toll (which by now had risen to a penny ha’penny) was dropped about a hundred years later in 1919, this will always be known as The Ha’penny Bridge.
A boardwalk has been added to a section of the quays.
O’Connell Bridge is the only traffic bridge in Europe that is wider than its length.
Looking up towards The Spire on O’Connell Street.
This uninspiring landmark on the bridge is of little significance….
….. this is where myself, a southsider, and himself, living on the north side, arranged to meet on our first date!!!! It was called the Harp Bar back then (1981 to be exact!!!)…. ah, memories!! 😍 🥰 😘
Ireland’s first sky-scraper – the 17 storey Liberty Hall – became a Dublin icon upon completion in 1964. A public viewing deck on the top floor offered great views of the city (this was closed after a bomb explosion in 1972).
It is the home of trade union SIPTU. In 2012, the union applied for planning permission to replace the tired looking building, which was deemed unsuitable for modern office requirements, with a 22 storey structure. The Planning Board rejected the application, citing the building as of historic and social significance and the need to protect the inner city skyline.
If you look back towards Liberty Hall, you’ll catch a glimpse of the green DART (Dublin Area Rapid Transport) which crosses the Liffey here.
Dublin’s traders and merchants were very much opposed to the site chosen for the new Custom House. They felt that it was so far downriver from the city centre that their property would devalue. Started in 1781, it took 10 years to finish. The exterior was richly adorned with sculptures and coats of arms. New docks and warehouses were constructed and all customs and excise business for the country took place here. The interior was destroyed by fire during the Civil War (1921 – 1922). Much of the building was eventually restored but, as with the Four Courts, many public documents were destroyed.
Today, the building houses the Government Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government.
A familiar sight in this part of town – particularly on Friday and Sunday evenings – when people are heading to nearby Busárus – the central bus station.
We’re at the Matt Talbot Memorial Bridge which was named after a Dubliner who was a drunkard by the age of 12! Eventually, Matt Talbot found God, gave up drinking and fought temptation by praying and attending mass each morning at 5am. He supposedly punished his body further by sleeping on a plank and wearing chains under his clothes.
This memorial is dedicated to those who were forced to emigrate during the Great Famine (1845 -1849). By the 1840’s about one third of the population was entirely depended on the potato for food. When potato blight ravished the crop, around a million people died and a further million emigrated. This site was chosen for the statues because on St. Patrick’s day, 1846, one of the first famine voyages left for New York from Custom House Quay.
Interestingly enough, the crew and 210 passengers on board the ‘Perseverence’ all safely reached New York on May 18, 1846. Future ships leaving Ireland for America, would be branded “coffin ships” because of the risk of death and disease to all those aboard.
EPIC – the Irish Famine Museum – Custom House Quay.
The original Jeanie Johnston was built in 1847. It made 16 voyages to the US, carrying 2,500 Irish emigrants. This replica is very impressive in itself but you can board and enjoy an informative tour.
We are heading into an area of the Docklands that has seen incredible renovation and massive expansion. Once a run-down area of the city, it now houses huge international financial, pharmaceutical and IT companies. Things were very quiet after the 2008 recession but the skyline is once again dominated by cranes and building sites.
I love the mixture of old and new – the traditional warehouses, churches and homes hanging on in there between the modern structures….
‘The Linesman’ (Dony McManus, 2,000) is a tribute to all of Dublin’s dockers down through the years.
Inscribed on this Memorial are names of merchant vessels and crews who lost their lives in World War 11.
The Dublin renewal plan also extends to rejuvenated housing schemes.
The Samuel Beckett Bridge was inspired by the flip of a coin — an Irish harp rotating through the air.
The Convention Centre is locally referred to as an oversized pint of Guinness!!!
Speaking of pints – time for one more….
The walkway is being nicely developed….
This old train depot has found a new calling as the 3Arena entertainment venue.
End of the road – literally! Through Dublin Port – across the Irish Sea – next stop Wales!