As stated by others you don’t actually ‘visit’ this site but admire from the car window as you drive past as slowly as possible allowing for the traffic. You drive so close it feels like you could reach out a hand and touch the cairn. You can’t – but that’s how it feels! When driving up the A591 you really can’t miss it. A large mound of grey stone.
I would estimate that the Cairn is about 2 metres high x 10 metres across?
The cairn sits at roughly the highest point of the pass between Grasmere and Thirlmere, called Dunmail Raise.
No bugger visits this. Not surprising really, as it sits in the middle of a dual carriageway. It's sod's Law really. The only place the road diverges is right here, for about 200 yards or so.
Mind you, if it hadn't they might well have destroyed the cairn. There is a record of a stone circle here being destroyed when the road was "improved". I'd like to get me 'ands on the b*stard who planned that.
As for the cairn, well I must have driven past it literally hundreds of times, but I've never stopped to take a closer look. I always take my eyes off the road to have a good look whilst driving past. The hoary old stones give the appearance of being very ancient. The lichens and mosses look like they haven't been disturbed for flippin' ages.
As for remains of the stone circle, many large rocks can be seen around, and your imagination can take over. Try to think logically, otherwise every stone could be a possible remnant.
"AD946, Edmund wasted Cumbria, and having put out the eyes of the two sons of Dunmail, gave that province to King Malcolm, King of Scotland. Dun-mel-wrays is supposed to have been erected in memory of it or a boundary of Dunmails kingdom."
The Gentleman's Magazine Library Compendium 1731-1868
The armies of the Saxon King Edmond and the Scottish King Malcolm joined forces to fight Dunmail, the King of Cumberland in AD 945, and won. It is said that Edmond himself killed Dunmail at the place where the cairn now stands.
He ordered his prisoners to collect rocks to pile on Dunmail's body, thus forming the cairn.
As Dunmail lay dying he shouted, "My crown - bear it away; never let the Saxon flaunt it."
A few of his warriors fought their way through the Saxons and bore his crown up the fell to Grisedale Tarn, where they threw it into the depths. They said, "Till Dunmail come again to lead us."
Every year the warriors return to the tarn, retrieve the crown, and carry it down to the cairn on Dunmail Raise.
They hit their spears on the top of the cairn, and a voice issues from inside, saying "Not yet, not yet; wait awhile my warriors."
The other legend of the cairn is that when two armies were about to join in battle each soldier from both sides placed a stone on the spot. Those who survived returned and removed a stone.
And I thought it was Bronze Age.
If you like frightening your children by driving with your knees while you point at prehistoric monuments, this is the site for you. Dunmail Raise is a 4m high Bronze Age cairn right on the central reservation of a dual carriageway. It marks the boundary of the old areas of Cumberland and Westmorland, and lies on what would always have been a useful N-S pass through this region.
It's said that Dunmail, King of Cumberland, fought the Saxon army of King Edmund and the Scots led by King Malcolm (some time in the 10th century) right on this very spot. Unfortunately Dunmail met his end, and his remaining and loyal soldiers built the cairn over him. Some legends have it that he sleeps there King Arthur-style, waiting for when his country needs him.
Meanwhile (according to Kenneth Woolley) "tis said that his no1 man took his [gold] crown and flung over the top of Seat Sandal and it landed in Grisedale Tarn.Should you venture up Seat Sandal on a winter night it is said the king and his bride can be seen dancing in the moonlight."