View of The Scalp, a narrow glacial valley just west of the summit of Barnaslingan Hill, Co. Dublin, as seen from the west. In the foreground, a man with a tall hat and a whip is conducting two horse-drawn carts along the road from the Scalp towards the viewer. Here the road is skirted on the right by a well constructed wall. There are cottages further away, on the right of the road. Across the way from them is another building, with a sharply pitched roof, in the manner of a Swiss cottage. Beyond lies the steep-sided pass with jagged rocks on either hand. In the distance is the conical peak of the Great Sugarloaf.
Inscribed in Image
|Subject(s)||Nature, Rural life|
|Keywords(s)||Buildings, Cabins, Carts, Cliffs, Cottages, Hats, Horses, Houses, Lands, Men, Mountains, People, Ravines, Rock formations, Trees|
|Dimensions||15 cm x 23.2 cm|
|Published / created||1816|
|Travel Account||Narrative of a Residence in Ireland|
|Note||From an original drawing by a Mr. C. who travelled with the author|
|Print or manuscript|
|Location of image in copy||opp. p. 187|
This is a link to a digital copy hosted by an external website.
|Rights||Courtesy of the National Library of Ireland|
Related text from travel account
|The next day I proceeded towards Dublin, passing through the Scalp, a natural curiosity which I had not yet seen. It is a vast gap in the summit of a mountain separating the county of Wicklow from that of Dublin, and has every appearance of being a rent made by some terrible convulsion of nature. For the two annexed plates of this extraordinary fissure I am indebted to my very good friend Mr. C...., and they will give a much better idea of it than can be given by any description. The first is taken at the end of the gap on the county of Dublin side, with the sugar-loaf mountains seen at a considerable distance through it;—the second is taken in the centre of the gap, looking in the same direction, and shows the character of the rocks exactly as they appear rising above the road. By these it will be seen, that at bottom the gap is only the breadth of the road, and that the rocks slope away from it, so that at the top they are a considerable distance asunder. The sides of these slopes are strewn all over with immense blocks of the granite of which the mountain is composed. More accurate views of the spot I can safely say could not be taken.
That this extraordinary chasm should ever have been supposed to be produced otherwise than by some powerful operation of nature, or the hand which directs all nature, mighty in all its works, far beyond all efforts of human industry and ingenuity, I should have conceived scarcely possible. Yet the compiler of a work published about two years since, The Traveller's Guide through Ireland, suggests a new theory, which I shall give in his own words, making two or three remarks upon it, and then leaving others to form their own opinions upon its probability or improbability. "This chasm," he says, "is imagined to have been caused by some violent convulsion of nature, which has rent the mountain in twain; but no theorist has ventured to conjecture that the breach might have been effected by dint of human labour, this being the only horizontal communication with the rich and enchanting valleys to the southward of this steep and almost perpendicular mountain, over whose transverse summit the formation of a road was impracticable. If Ireland was as much civilized in the remote periods of antiquity as represented in the [p.188] legends of Celtic antiquarians, such an effort of art for the attainment of so important a purpose would exist a noble memorial of sagacity and industry. But whether our progenitors might overlook the advantages derivable from so direct a communication, it is not a violation of probability to suppose that this stupendous operation might be projected by the eagle-eyed sagacity of the Danish conquerors during their sway in Ireland; and a recollection of those immense mounds, the work of their hands, still existing in this island, corroborates this novel conjecture. The wide aperture of this rent at the apex, diagonally narrowing to the bottom, where it is only wide enough for a road, savours more of human art than the majestic grandeur of Nature's operations. Thus might this singularity be explained without the intervening agency of a genie, a giant, or a fairy—
Nec Deus intersit, nisi dignus vindice nodus."
Against this theory is to be objected, that it was not impossible to carry a road over the mountains, since one is carried over, very near the chasm, to the lead-mines. In the next place, if hewn by the hand of man, whence come all those enormous broken masses of stone that cover the sides of the chasm? and in the third place, a road being made through it is a work of very modern date. There are many persons living who remember its being made, and who talk of the vast labour employed in removing the broken masses that lay scattered at the bottom of the hollow, so as to level it for making the road. If the work is not to be ascribed to the great Architect of the universe, it seems more natural to ascribe it, as it is sometimes ascribed, to the opposite agent than to the hand of man. Some will have it that this same agent one morning bit this piece out of the mountain for his breakfast; and it must be owned that it was a breakfast worthy of himself. But this agent is not a very favourite workman in Ireland, and I believe there are not many votaries to this theory, I scarcely ever heard of any great achievements of his: if he did accomplish that in question, he seems to have gone after breakfast contentedly to his glen, and there remained quiet; indeed he had every reason to be satisfied with his birth. The great operators of wonders in Ireland are giants, fairies, and saints. [p.187-188]