Maps and Navigation

Going out for a walk? Do you know where you are going or is it a new route? Are you carrying a map?

If you’re heading for the hills or remote lowland walking then a map and compass are both essential items that you should be carrying even if you are using a GPS. Even for more straightforward routes a simple map can still be helpful if you stray off route or need to change your route mid-walk.

The “standard” maps that are used in the UK are the Ordnance Survey Landranger series for hillwalking or the Explorer series when more path detail is required at low levels. Also very good for walkers are the excellent Harvey maps. There are  Harvey Mountain maps, Superwalker maps, Ultramaps and more. The Mountain maps are my personal first choice for hillwalking in Scotland.

As well as the traditional paper maps, these days we now have digital mapping. Digital mapping gives you easy access to a variety of maps and allows you to print out what you need. You can view the maps on a smartphone or other device but it is still recommended that you print out the “bigger picture”.

Ordnance Survey – annual subscription for access to the latest Landranger and Explorer maps

Bing Maps – free access to OS maps although not the current ones.

If you are heading for the hills then it is important that you know how to use your map and compass otherwise they are not going to be much use to you. There are many resources available to help you learn navigation although it is a practical skill, so the more you use it, the easier it gets! You could go on a course with a qualified instructor and this would be a good option if you are a complete beginner. Try the National Navigation Award Scheme website to find courses near you.

Mountaineering Scotland organise a range of subsidised courses for their members (also available to non-members for a supplement). For free introductory courses (delivered by qualified professionals), check out the Mountain Aid charity. Many clubs also arrange training courses for their members.

There is lots of helpful advice on the internet and the following are reliable sources of information:

Mountaineering Scotland

Ordnance Survey

Mountain Safety UK

Apps and Smartphones are very much a part of our life these days. My personal favourite GPS / mapping app is Viewranger. It gives you free access to Open Streetmap / Cyclemap which can be helpful when looking for paths in semi-rural areas. Ordnance Survey map tiles can be purchased. Similar apps / services include Anquet and Memory Map.

Please remember though, that GPS and smartphones complement paper maps and navigation skills but are NOT a substitute for them. Read advice from Mountaineering Scotland on GPS use.

If there is just one app you install for walking use, then make it OS Locate (available for Android and iOS). It does what it says on the tin, gives you the OS grid reference for your location, and is Scottish Mountain Rescue’s recommended app for location. Combined with a decent walking map and compass, it should be the only app you need.

© 2017 – 2021 Fife Walking. All rights reserved. If using any of these routes for a group or organised walk please credit Fife Walking as your source.