IWAI - Dublin Branch - Liffey Rally Notes

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DISCLAIMERThis document is a basic guide to sights along the Liffey. It is NOT a definitive navigation guide. It is only intended to be used by members of the IWAI on IWAI-organised trips on the Liffey.
No recent survey of the river has been carried out.  Shoals may have grown, diminished, moved etc.  New obstructions may have appeared.  The Liffey can get very choppy below the Customs House.  Tide tables are found on the ISA website here.  Boats that venture up the Liffey may get trapped upstream by a rising tide and be unable to return under the bridges.  Boats that venture up the Liffey may get trapped by a falling tide and get stranded on rocks, mud, bicycles or similar debris.  Each skipper must satisfy themselves as to the suitability and safety of their boats on the day given the prevailing weather conditions.  Please report any errors or observations to the Dublin Branch of IWAI.

Dublin Rally Notes 2015

Our destination is the islands immediately below Islandbridge Weir (see below). This short paper should make your journey a wee bit more interesting and safer.  For the forthcoming 2015 Dublin Rally see here.  Photos and videos from other rallies are found here.

Back in 1805, John Carr wrote in “Stranger in Ireland” (1805) that ...

Well its time to get those "pleasure-boats" on to the Liffey.

Picture above shows part of the 2003 Dublin Rally.


  • The Liffey is a tidal and commercial river with 18(19) bridges, each of which will have a different air-draft. Some of these are tricky, i.e. the time window when there is sufficient water under you and sufficient air above you is limited.
  • Navigable arches are centre arches unless otherwise stated.
  • Beware of protruding bolts, lights and debris left behind by builders on the underside of the arches.
  • The “Spirit of the Docklands” operates in this area – give her right of way.
  • Skippers of boats taking part in the Liffey trip should advise the Rally Organisers in advance
  • Passage through the Ringsend Sea Lock will take place on the 11 from ~08:00 onwards.  In general, you go up the Liffey on a rising tide - you should be in position to navigate the shallows above Heuston Station around 10:00, mooring at Islandbridge.  We depart Islandbridge on the falling tide at ~15:00.
  • Large boats must take care about Heuston Bridge, Frank Sherwin Bridge and James Joyce bridge on the return leg.
  • We recommend you have a good look at the Dublin City Moorings 2008 handbook - it contains details of Dublin Port radio, Small Craft (Leisure) regulations and Tide Tables.
  • Also check www.dublinport.ie for their 2008 Leisure Craft Guidelines.

1 Grand Canal Basin 1796:

The Grand Canal basin, which has an area of 22.3 acres, opened in 1796. The Outer basin has an area of 16.5 acres, the inner one an area of 8 acres. The railway line was built in 1834, cutting off a part of the original basin to the west of the railway.

The inner and outer docks are separated by MacMahon Bridge. General Mac Mahon Bridge is a new fixed bridge, completed in October 2007.  This bridge replaced a steel lifting bridge built in the 1950's. Its predecessor was an iron swing bridge built in 1857 which in turn replaced a wooden drawbridge built in the 1790's.

The grand canal docks were never a commercial success. While being built to cope with up to 600 ships at a time, a dozen was closer to the norm.

1993 saw the opening of the Waterways Information Centre, better known as the “box in the docks”. The 16-story Charlotte Quay apartments (the Millenium Tower) were constructed in 1998, while a new glass tower (Alto Vetro) was completed near the box in the docks in 2008.

Dublin Branch is currently engaged in restoring one of the three original graving docks at Grand Canal Dock.

The three sea locks are:

  • Camden Lock: 45m x 9m,
  • Buckingham Lock: 35m x 7m,
  • Westmorland Lock 19m x 4m -

Only Buckingham is currently functional.

When exiting/entering the Grand Canal Dock, keep to the Western bank - the Dodder throws a lot of silt (red arrows) and its not difficult to get stuck!

2 East-Link Bridge 1984

To the east as you exit the Grand Canal Docks is the East Link Bridge. The width of the river at this location is 210 m (690 ft). The bridge comprises four fixed spans of 26 m (85 ft) each, an opening span of 45 m (148 ft). It was opened on 21 October 1984.

The quay wall to your left is Britain quay and is the proposed site for the famous U2 tower shown here.

For information on the Eastlink Bridge opening hours click here

3 Samuel Beckett Bridge (2009)

The bridge was designed by Santiago Calatrava Valla, who also designed the James Joyce bridge opened in 2003. The bridge will have four traffic lanes with cycle tracks and footpaths on either side of the bridge, while being capable of swinging open to accommodate maritime traffic.  The bridge arrived from Holland on the night of 11/05/09.  It opened to the public in December 2009."

For information on the Samuel Beckett Bridge opening times click here.

4 The Royal Canal

Just before the bridge, you can see where the Royal Canal enters the Liffey.

The original sea locks were located under the Scherzer bridges.  The new design sees the original locks replaced with a set of Sector Gates. Sector Gates can handle scenarios where the head of water is either side of the gates and are frequently used where canals or marinas encounter tidal waters such as the Liffey. The Flood defences were declared completed 12/05/09

5 Seán O'Casey Bridge 2005

A pedestrian bridge joining Sir John Rogerson's Quay in the Grand Canal Docks area to North Wall Quay and the IFSC.

The swing bridge spans approximately 100 metres and has two balanced cantilever arms that swing open to permit boats to pass up river. The bridge was opened in July 2005. It is named for the playwright Seán O'Casey (1880–1964) who lived in the North Wall area of the city.

Just before it its the Dublin City Moorings.

(Note that the Guidebook has tide tables for Dublin North Wall)

6 Talbot Memorial Bridge 1978

It links Custom House Quay on the north bank of the river to City Quay on the south bank, and was completed in 1978.

It is named for Matt Talbot, a temperance campaigner from Dublin's Northside who practised mortification of the flesh, a statue of whom stands at the south end of the bridge.

7 Loop Line Bridge or Liffey Viaduct 1891

The bridge was built in 1891. It consists of wrought iron lattice girders on a double row of piers with five spans. The viaduct is approximately six metres above street level and supports two railway tracks. During original planning and construction (in the late 19th century) the project was subject to much opposition and controversy, because the structure blocks the view down river to the The Custom House.

8 Butt Bridge1932

Joins George's Quay to Beresford Place and the north quays at Liberty Hall.

The original bridge on this site was a structural steel swivel bridge, which was opened in 1879 and named for Isaac Butt, leader of the Home Rule Movement (who died that year).

In 1932, the swing bridge was replaced with a three span fixed structure of reinforced concrete - (it was renamed as "Congress Bridge in 1932 but this fact is ignored)

Above Butt bridge you can see ring bolts on the quay walls – used by vessels to moor before the swing bridge was replaced. Also moored here were the Liffey ferries prior to the opening of the East Link bridge.

9 Rosie Hackett Bridge (Luas/Bus) (2014)

A new bridge which serves a new Luas line and city buses, and links Marlborough Street to Hawkins Street.  It opened in May 2014 - Photos show the bridge under construction.

Rosanna "Rosie" Hackett (1892 – 1976) was a founder-member of the Irish Women Workers' Union.  She later became a member of the Irish Citizen Army and was present in Liberty Hall at the printing of the 1916 proclamation.

10 O'Connell Bridge 1882

Joining O'Connell Street to D'Olier Street, Westmoreland Street and the south quays.

The original bridge (named Carlisle Bridge for the then Lord Lieutenant of Ireland - Frederick Howard, 5th Earl of Carlisle) was designed by James Gandon, and built between 1791 and 1794.

Originally humped, and narrower, Carlisle bridge was a symmetrical, three semicircular arch structure constructed in granite with a Portland stone balustrade and obelisks on each of the four corners. In 1879, it was decided to widen Carlisle Bridge to bring it to the same width as Sackville Street (now O'Connell Street) which formed the north side carriageway connection to the Bridge and was 230 ft (70 m) wide. The photo at right shows the original bridge in the 1860s.  Note the extensive shipping that could come up the Liffey as far as the bridge.

When the bridge was reopened c.1882 it was renamed for Daniel O'Connell when the statue in his honour was unveiled.

CAUTION: Use the centre arch on this bridge - Watch out for protruding lights and bolts under the bridge.

11 Liffey Bridge 1816 ("Ha'penny Bridge”)

A pedestrian bridge built in 1816. Originally called the Wellington Bridge (after the Duke of Wellington), the name of the bridge changed to Liffey Bridge, its official name to this day. It is still commonly known as the Ha'penny Bridge.

Before the Ha'penny Bridge was built there were seven ferries, operated by a William Walsh, across the Liffey. The ferries were in a bad condition and he was informed that he had to either fix them or build a bridge. Walsh chose the latter option and was granted the right to extract a ha'penny toll from anyone crossing it for 100 years. The toll was dropped in 1919.

The bridge was closed for repair and renovations between 2001 and 2003 and was reopened sporting its original white colour. Its span is 141ft (43m).

12 Millennium footbridge 1999

A pedestrian bridge spanning the River Liffey in Dublin, joining Eustace Street in Temple Bar to the north quays.

Installed in November 1999, to commemorate the millennium. Its 41 m (134•5 ft) long. It was prefabricated off site by Thompson Engineering of Carlow, transported to Dublin and, despite weighing 60t, was placed in position by a single crane in November 1999.

Note: The portcullis-type gate on the North Quay, just east of the bridge is where the Poddle River discharges into the Liffey (photo at right).

13 Grattan Bridge 1874

Joining Capel Street to Parliament Street and the south quays.

The first bridge on this site was built by Sir Humphrey Jervis as Essex Bridge (named for Arthur Capell, 1st Earl of Essex, Lord Lieutenant of Ireland) to join several of Jervis' developments (including Capel Street and Jervis Street) to the opposite side of the river and to Dublin Castle.

In the 1750's the bridge was rebuilt to correct flood and other structural damage and as one of the first initiatives of the Wide Streets Commission.

From 1872, the bridge was further remodelled (on Westminster Bridge in London), being widened and flattened with cast iron supports extended out from the stonework so as to carry pavements on either side of the roadway.

The bridge was reopened as Grattan Bridge in 1874, being named after Henry Grattan MP (1746-1820).

14 O'Donovan Rossa Bridge 1816

Joining Wine Tavern Street to Chancery Place (at the Four Courts) and the north quays.

Replacing a short lived wooden structure, the original masonry bridge on this site was built in 1684 as a five-span simple arch bridge, and named Ormonde Bridge. In December 1802 this bridge was swept away during a severe storm.

In 1816, a replacement bridge (the current structure) was constructed marginally further west, with sculptured heads (similar to those on O'Connell Bridge) on the keystones. The heads represent Plenty, the Liffey, and Industry on one side, with Commerce, Hibernia and Peace on the other.

Opened as Richmond Bridge (for the Duke of Richmond Lord Lieutenant of Ireland), it was renamed again in 1923 for Jeremiah O'Donovan Rossa.

On the south bank beside Merchants Quay church there is a green door behind which our own Mick Kinahan resided at times! This building has a medieval slip way in the basement dating from the 14-1500s

15 Fr. Mathew Bridge 1818

Joining Merchants Quay to Church Street and the north quays. The site of Fr Matthew Bridge is understood to be close to the ancient "Ford of the Hurdles", which was the original crossing point on the Liffey and gives its name (Baile Atha Cliath).to the city of Dublin.

At the turn of the first millennium (c.1014), the first recorded Dublin Liffey bridge was built at this point. Possibly known as the Bridge of Dubhghall, this basic wooden structure was maintained and rebuilt over several centuries (from early Medieval to Viking to Norman times).

In 1428, the Dominicans of Ostmantown Friary built the first masonry bridge in Dublin, at this point. Known as Dublin Bridge, Old Bridge, or simply The Bridge, this four arch structure had towers at either end, and shops, housing, an inn and a chapel were built on its supports.

For much of its 390-year life span, The Bridge carried all pedestrian, livestock and horse-drawn traffic across the river, and (as late as 1762) its tolls and chapel were still in use.

At the beginning of the 19th century, Dublin Bridge was replaced by a three-span, elliptical arch stone bridge. The bridge was opened in 1818 as Whitworth Bridge, for Charles, Earl of Whitworth, Lord Lieutenant of Ireland.

It was renamed again in 1938 for Father Theobald Mathew (the Apostle of Temperance) who was born at Thomastown near Golden, County Tipperary.

16 Mellowes Bridge 1768

Joining Queen Street and Arran Quay to the south quays. The current bridge was built between 1764 and 1768 as a three elliptical arch stone bridge with a total span of 42m, and named Queens Bridge after Charlotte of Mecklenburg, queen consort of George III.

The bridge was renamed for the legendary Queen Maeve at a meeting of the Municipal Council on 2 January 1922. However, it was renamed again in 1942 to its current name, after Lieutenant General Liam Mellows Irish Republican army who was executed during the Irish Civil War.

At almost 250 years old, Mellow's Bridge remains the oldest of all Dublin city bridges still in use, although the parapets were replaced with cast iron balustrades and stone copings between 1816 and 1818.

It replaced a bridge built in 1683, a stone bridge called Arran Bridge or Arons Bridge was built in a location between the upstream Bloody Bridge (see Rory O'More.

CAUTION: Keep away from the North bank between here and James Joyce bridge and do not attempt to moor here.

17 James Joyce Bridge 2003

Joining the south quays to Blackhall Place on the north side.

Designed by Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava, it is a single-span structural steel design, 40 m (131 ft) long, with the deck supported from two outward angled arches.

The bridge is named for the famous Dublin author James Joyce, and was opened on June 16, 2003 (Bloomsday) Joyce's short story "The Dead" is set in Number 15 Usher's Island, the house facing the bridge on the south side.

CAUTION: Headroom is limited here – beware when returning downstream. The Cenral Steel Beam (running across the river) is lower than the outer beams, i.e. there is less headroom in the centre of the bridge that on its outer edges.

18 Rory O'More Bridge (Watling Street Bridge) 1861

Joining Watling Street to Ellis Quay - The first wooden bridge on this site, built in 1670, was officially named Barrack Bridge. However, it became known locally as Bloody Bridge, following riots at its opening after ferrymen tried to tear it down. It was replaced with in 1680 and again in 1693.

It was finally replaced by a stone bridge in 1704. At one end of the original bridge was an elaborate gateway. This was dismantled and reassembled stone by stone and now forms the west gate of the Royal Hospital Kilmainham, now the Museum of Modern Art.

This bridge was replaced in turn by the present day structure featuring a 95ft (29m) span in 1859-61 and opened as the Victoria & Albert Bridge (or the Queen Victoria Bridge). The bridge was renamed in 1939 for Rory O'More, one of the key figures from the plot to capture Dublin as part of the Irish Rebellion of 1641

Note that this bridge marks the end of the area under the control of Dublin Port.

Guinness: The quays to the north upriver of this bridge is Victoria Quay. .

From 1868, Extra Stout Porter was transferred to on the Grand Canal to the port for export. However, from 1874 onwards, a locomotive took Guinness onto the jetty built at Victoria Quay. Like us, the Guinness boats were restricted by the tides and sailed any time after 03:30 until midnight. Sailings were only possible two hours before and two hours after high tide.  The Liffey Barges discontinued service in June 1961.

CAUTION: There are lots of tree stumps in the water on the site of the old wharf (shown at right) – keep out from the wall.

CAUTION: Its also very shallow on the north quay – keep away from the wall

CAUTION: There is significant silt deposited on the south Bank around both the Frank Sherwin and Seán Heuston bridges due to the Camac river meeting the Liffey.

NAVIGATION GUIDANCE: For the next two bridges, Take a line to the north of centre, about 1/3rd the span of each arch from the north side.

Photo below shows the main concentration of silt (blue arrows):

19 Frank Sherwin Bridge 1981

It joins St. John's Road and the south quays from Heuston Station to Wolfe Tone Quay and Parkgate Street.

Frank Sherwin Bridge was opened in 1981 to remove traffic from the much older and narrower Sean Heuston Bridge as part of an extended traffic management project on Dublin's quays. This resulted in reversing the direction of the one-way system on the quays to north quays eastbound/south quays westbound. Its named for Dublin politician Frank Sherwin who died in 1981. Sherwin has been described as "colourful". In 1958, when the Dáil was debating allowing women to join the Gardaí, he suggested that "while recruits should not be actually horse faced, they should not be too good looking. They should be just plain women and not targets for marriage

CAUTION: Make sure you have adequate headroom on the return trip downstream

20 Seán Heuston Bridge 1829

Originally designed by George Papworth to carry horsedrawn traffic, it was constructed in 1828 and named Kings Bridge to commemorate a visit by King George IV in 1821.

In 1923 it was renamed Sarsfield Bridge, and in 1941 it was again renamed as the Seán Heuston Bridge for Seán Heuston, who was executed for his part in the 1916 Easter Rising.

The bridge was restored in 2003 and now carries Luas tram traffic on the red line.

CAUTION: 95 metres west of the bridge, the Camac river discharges into the Liffey. The Camac is the 4th largest river in Dublin. This river carries a lot of silt and the river is very shallow here.  There is a bar (red arrow).  Again keep to about 1/3rd of the river width from the north bank - we’re aground on a bar upstream of the bridge in the photo above – but patience!, the tide will lift us clear.

There's very little water at low tide


21 Liffey Railway Bridge or Liffey Viaduct 1877

The Liffey Railway Bridge is a rail bridge spanning the River Liffey near Dublin Heuston railway station in Dublin, Ireland.

The bridge is a wrought iron box truss structure, and joins lines from Heuston Station to Connolly Station through the Phoenix Park tunnel.

It is used regularly for freight traffic, and by certain limited special passenger services on match days to carry GAA fans from southern lines to Connolly for Croke Park.

22 Island Bridge (Sarah Bridge) 1796

This bridge forms one end of the South Circular Road. Island Bridge and the surrounding area are so named, because of the island formed here at the junction of the Camac and Liffey rivers.

In 1577, an arched stone bridge was built here to replace an earlier structure nearby at Kilmainham.

This bridge was swept away by a flood in 1787, and in 1794 the replacement bridge, that is standing today, was constructed. The span is 360ft (32-metre) and was originally named Sarah's Bridge after Sarah, Countess of Westmoreland and Vice-Queen of Ireland, wife of the then Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, John Fane, 10th Earl of Westmorland, who laid the first stone on the June 22, 1795.

The bridge was renamed Island Bridge in 1922

CAUTION: Above Island Bridge there are two shoals, one halfway out on the south bank and one 1/3rd the way out from the north bank – be careful and stay in single line.

There is one other shoal on the slight bend of the river where you can see one of 4 streams enter the river from the Phoenix Park.

23 Islandbridge or Trinity Weir (originally Kilmainham weir)

In 1220 the citizens of Dublin complained to Henry III, saying "the prior and friars of the Hospital of Kilmainham have lately made a pool there whereby the city and citizens are much damnified; their fishery is totally destroyed because the pool prevents the fish from ascending, and the boats can no longer pass up and down as they used to".

This weir (250m in length) allowed the friars to develop the millstream, which is still to be seen, and possibly also to reduce the contamination of the drinkable Liffey water by tidal salt water and city waste. In 1742, Dublin Corporation bought the lands to develop the millrace as a supply of drinking water for the city.

Mooring: Lots of rafting-up here - Moor so as to leave deep draughted vessels on the outside.

24 Sources:

  • “Stranger in Ireland” (1805) by John Carr
  • “Anna Liffey – The River of Dublin” (1988) by John De Courcy and Stephen Conlin
  • “The Liffey in Dublin” (1996) by John De Courcy
  • “Rivers of Dublin” (1991) by Clair L. Sweeney
  • “The Book of the Liffey: From Source to the Sea”, Elizabeth Healy
  • “Project history of Dublin’s River Liffey bridges”, M. Phillips and A. Hamilton.
  • “Dublin Branch Rally 2006 Up the Liffey”
  • wikipedia.com
  • www.dublin.iwai.ie
  • aerial photos are from http://maps.live.com



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