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Kings River

Kings River, West Wicklow

The Kings River is a major tributary of the Liffey. It rises up near Wicklow Gap and flows down a broad valley terminating nowadays into Poulaphuca reservoir. Formerly it meandered a further dozen kilometres or more through the Killough and Ballinahown bogs to reach the Liffey near Baltyboys. It’s a sizeable enough river as there are many smaller brooks feeding into it.

Liam Price notes that a church record from 1533 refers to the river as the Unry which he considers derives from Abhainn Righe and that it was one of the nine rivers identified with this name in the Leabhar Gabhála. The Rye Water in Kildare, which also drains to the Liffey, is thought to have the same origin. It appears that the name Unry was translated directly into English as the Kings River and appears as such in the Down Survey of the 1650s. It’s probable that the word Righe has some connection with Rí, the modern Irish word for a king but it’s not certain and there may have been some other significant or related meaning in earlier centuries.

The broad Kings River valley has undergone significant change in recent decades. There is much coniferous planting now on the lower slopes and the landscape is also marked by the large pylons that march down from near Turlough Hill towards Poulaphuca and Golden Falls. It’s worthy to note the impact of these relatively modestly pylons on a mountain landscape and consider the very much larger pylons proposed in 2014 by Eirgrid.