Why you should use Ordnance Survey maps

Ordnance Survey is Great Britain’s mapping agency meaning it’s up to them to survey the land and keep maps up to date and if you enjoy walking or cycling, these maps might be up your street.

Ordnance Survey sells lots of paper maps but they also do an online map subscription which can be paid for monthly or yearly.

I opted for the monthly payment to try it out, I figured if I wasn’t using it much I could just cancel and not have paid for the full year. I can say that after having the app for a month, I’m definitely keeping it!

Which brings me to the title of this blog – why should you use Ordnance Survey maps?

Choice of Maps

On the app, which you can use on your mobile and on your desktop, there is a choice of six map styles.

  • Standard Map – this is free without the subscription and is a good map for finding street names.
  • Offroad routing – find walking routes that are offroad in national parks – Loch Lomond and The Trossachs for example.
  • OS Leisure Map – this map is my favourite as it highlights lots of outdoor activities – find parks, nature reserves, old Roman forts, hills, and cairns – great for finding trig points!
  • Aerial – see what an area resembles.
  • Greenspace – this map highlights parks and green spaces making it easier to spot.
  • Night map – for when you need to use the map in the dark.

Find places you would never have known about

Going back to the OS Leisure Map again, this map has been hugely beneficial during lockdown as I’ve been looking to see what I can explore in my council area.

I think half the fun (yes I did just say fun, I think I’m turning into a map geek!) of this map is zooming into areas and seeing what there is. You can also handily see at a glance how high hills are and if there’s a trig point or cairn.

I’ve found hills I didn’t know about as they never appeared in any Google searches because it’s not a widely known walk and discovered that there’s a little park just off the Clyde River near the M8.

Places I’ve recently discovered thanks to Ordnance Survey maps

Walking and Cycle Routes

Google Maps have aced car directions but when it comes to walking routes especially those off the beaten path, OS Maps has this covered well. Their OS Landranger maps have details of walking paths but their app also lets users plot their own routes. These routes can be saved privately or shared so others using the app can discover them.

When you plot a route you can see the ascent so you know whether it’s going to be a strenuous hill climb or an easier flat walk and it also displays the time when the sun will set.

OS Maps knows all the cycle paths and you can also find these on the app.

Cheaper Option than Buying Paper Maps

You could easily spend more than the yearly subscription cost on paper maps especially if you lose or end up ruining one on an excursion.

The beauty of Ordnance Survey’s online maps is that you can print out the area you want and you can choose the scale – no more having to fold huge maps away! I haven’t bought any map protectors – just good old poly pockets or a zipped clear folder which I picked up from Asda for about 50p!

Don’t Get Lost Again

OS Maps can track your location so if you’re going offroad, OS Maps will still know where you are rather than looking like you’re floating in a vast green field. Their app also has an augmented reality feature where by using your camera, it can highlight the nearest points of interest.

The story behind the Survey

Ordnance Survey first began by mapping the Scottish Highlands in 1745. It was a task for 21 year old William Roy which took him 8 years to complete the map.

After the First World War, trig points were born and over 6,000 of them were created. Surveyors would use theodolites and place them on top of the trig points to measure the angles between the trig point. This helped build a map of Great Britain.

Trig points are no longer in use, as today, Ordnance Survey uses satellite systems as well as surveyors to record changes daily.