Much like what the River Thames is to London, and the Seine to Paris; the River Liffey is Dublin’s dominant feature and one that you will surely come to know and love during your stay.
The River Liffey (meaning ‘life’) not only divides the city geographically between North and South, but also culturally with the two halves of the city termed ‘Northside’ and ‘Southside’ respectively – both areas begin and end either side of the Quays.
An understanding of the geography of and around the River Liffey will prove an excellent starter for anyone who wants to be able to find their way around Dublin in case visiting for an extended period of time. For example, the Ha’penny Bridge is the prime gateway between Northside and Temple Bar.
The Quays which line the Liffey do not only contrast sharply from North to South, but also from East to West: as you travel further West you will find some of Dublin’s more famous land-based monuments and areas of interest, such as The Four Courts and Kilmainham Gaol; whereas the further East you go you will find sea and river based attractions such as the Jeanie Johnston Famine Ship and the Diving Bell. The River Liffey’s attraction for tourists is also not only confined to the attractions that line it at regular intervals; it is also equally famous for the beautiful old and modern bridges that span it. The North Quay begins (or ends) in the East, at the entrance to Pheonix Park, whilst the South Quay to the East begins (or ends) at Heuston Station. If you have begun your tour outside of Dublin and arrive in Dublin at Heuston Station then a walk round Phoenix Park followed by a stroll along the Quays into town will make the perfect start for your tour of Dublin.
There’s huge number of attractions, restaurants, accommodation options and places of interest dotted along either side of the Quays. On the Eastern side the famine memorial is a heart-wrenching reminder of the sadness of Ireland’s famine of 1845-52. These tall and emaciated statues who are walking towards the sea whilst dreaming of a better life, serve to remind tourists and locals of Dublin’s troubled past. Fittingly there is a famine ship further along the Quay: the Jeanie Johnston is a replica of an actual ship that once ferried such careworn people to a better life across the ocean in North America. Customs House is an imposing building that we will dwell on much deeper within the pages of this website. All three attractions are within a very short walk of each other on the North Quay.
The Eastern side of the Liffey also boasts a vast array of attractions. The Brazen Head is a 12th Century pub that makes a great place to soak up some history and Guinness. This beautiful pub is on Usher’s Quay, next to the Father Mathew Bridge.
As well as walking along the riverside Quays and over the river’s bridges, there is also plenty of scope to punctuate your holiday with exciting recreational activities that take place around the River Liffey. One such options is join one of the boat tours which leave hourly from Bachelors Walk. These forty-five minute cruises begin at 10:30am, 11:30am, 12:30pm and 2:15pm, 3:15pm and 4:15pm. It is best to join one of these cruises early on your visit to Dublin as the guide will give you a good grounding for being able to navigate your way around the city for the rest of your stay. Like we’ve said, the River Liffey is the key focal point for finding your way around Dublin.
Tourists who don’t mind getting wet can apply to join the yearly River Liffey swim. This 1500 metre race has been running since 1920 and runs from Customs House to the East Link Bridge. Most years the swim takes place in August (for that Summertime warmth) and application forms can be found on www.leinsteropensea.ie.
Kayaking and canoeing are also both available on the River Liffey, with several groups leading lessons. The best of these is ATI (Adventure Training Ireland) who lead several courses including: kayaking lessons for children with autism, and kayak slim (for fat people like me).