This hand-coloured print of the Scalp, County Wicklow – part of the King’s Topographical Collection – was drawn and engraved in 1796 by the artist John Laporte (1761–1839). From a vantage point within the Scalp, Laporte directs the viewer’s gaze out of the rocky crevice, towards the imposing peak of Sugar Loaf mountain in the distance.
The Scalp itself is a spectacular rock formation two miles north of Enniskerry and eight miles from Dublin in Ireland. Mrs and Mrs Hall describe the area in Ireland, its Scenery, Character, etc. (London: 1841– 1843):
the county is entered at the Scalp, a chasm in the mountain which separates it from Dublin. The mountain appears to have been divided by some sudden shock of nature. The sides are not precipitous although the ascent is difficult in consequence of the huge masses of granite that prevent the semblance of a path, and not infrequently jut out so as to suggest the idea of exceeding danger. The road runs through these overhanging cliffs; enormous granite blocks of many tons in weight having been rolled back out of the path of the traveller. The sides are perfectly naked, and so similar are both in nature and appearance as to lead the spectator to imagine the disruption has but recently occurred and that another earthquake might reunite them without leaving a fissure between
The Scalp derives its name from the Irish scailp, meaning a cleft or fracture in rock, a term which also lent itself to the most humble of Irish dwellings that utilised naturally occurring caves and crags. This rudimentary type of cabin was common throughout the Irish countryside until the Great Famine (1845– 49) decimated the population.