Plan your Bank Holiday with OS maps

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Today’s blog is written by Harry Berryman, a student at the University of Birmingham. He is an outdoors enthusiast and former Duke of Edinburgh participant who was an intern at OS for two weeks this summer.

This coming Bank Holiday weekend means that many people will be planning a weekend away in the UK, and Ordnance Survey has a number of tools for planning your perfect ‘staycation’. Using OS getamap, anyone can find great places to stay and eat, as well as a wide variety of attractions. There are also loads of ways to use the symbols on an OS paper map to find a huge variety of great things to do this Bank Holiday weekend. You could also use the great range of Ordnance Survey apps while out and about to find things in your area or check that you are still on track!


Planning with OS getamap

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OS getamap is a powerful tool for a variety of uses, and allows you to both plan your weekend away and then print out the maps you need at home. Planning with OS getamap is simple:

  • Firstly, you need to go to register here for free, or subscribe to enjoy the fully featured version.
  • Then search for the postcode of the location that you are intending to visit. If you know the grid reference of this location, use the advanced search option to find it more accurately.

The main menu on the left then provides a vast range of information; everything you could need when planning a weekend trip in the UK, each tab has a range of great features to help your weekend go as smoothly as possible.

shutterstock_38745139The ‘Find a route’ tab shows you suggested routes that people have walked or cycled and uploaded and National Trails. For subscribers there are authored routes by the AA, Country Walking Magazine and Trail Magazine. This is a great way to find a route suited to your tastes without being familiar to the area, as all routes are classified by distance and suggested mode of transport, with details of the time it will take walking, running or cycling (based Naismith’s rule), and the elevation range and profile. If you are staying for slightly longer or know the area already, you could make your own route and share it for others to try out! You can also use the share function to send the route as a GPX file to other members of your group, for use with the OS MapFinder app, or to upload onto a handheld GPS device.

The ‘Features’ tab is perhaps the most useful. It contains a database of over 35,000 places to stay and over 22,000 places to eat, as well as a huge variety of attractions to plan your day around.

The ‘Places to Stay’ category is one of the most important to consider when deciding on a destination, or useful to consult even if you have been to the area before to try out somewhere new. It contains lists of B&Bs, Camping & Caravan sites, Hotels and self-catering places to rent.

The ‘Eating and Drinking’ category contains a wide variety of choices, but the Good Pub Guide has contributed a very long list of exceptional pubs, and a weekend away in the UK would not be complete without a visit to at least one!

The ‘Attractions’ category of this tab is key to your weekend planning. It contains 9 categories, each with hundreds of different options of things to do such as:

  • Nature reserves
  • Safari Parks
  • Theme Parks
  • Breweries
  • Local Markets
  • Distilleries
  • Castles
  • National Trust Places
  • Museums
  • Gardens and Parks
  • English Heritage and Historic Scotland Locations
  • Golf Courses
  • Leisure Centres
  • Spas
  • Other historical attractions

The Entertainment category is also a goldmine of information about things to see and visit, such as Theatres and Independent Cinemas.

The ‘More’ tab contains more features for planning and enjoying your weekend, including driving directions, a link to the Met Office weather forecast for the map currently on screen, and the ability to link to a Garmin handheld GPS device.

Finally all that is left to do is print the map sheets: by using the printer icon in the top right of the screen under ‘Utilities’. Subscribers can do this for free and are able to utilise more features.


Planning with a Paper Map


If you already have or prefer navigating with an OS paper map, the OS Explorer Map series are still a great resource for planning a weekend away, packed with features and the hidden value of the detailed key. These symbols from the map of Fort William above are only an example; your chosen location may have even more to do!


This is not all OS paper maps have to offer so take a look; you never know what you might find!

Using OS apps on your weekend away

appsOnce you are out and about, Ordnance Survey’s family of apps are free to download and are there to help you along on your adventures. OS MapFinder is a brilliant tool for keeping track of your journey progress and average speed. You can plan these trips on OS getamap, and then share the route to OS MapFinder to take with you. The GPS integration and offline storage of map tiles makes this a great option for navigation during your journey, as well as being an excellent tool for reviewing how far you walked and how fast, allowing you to track your fitness.

OS Locate could become an invaluable tool, as it converts your location as determined by the internal GPS into a grid reference, just in case you need help to find your way if things go a bit wrong on your walk or bike ride!

If cycling is in the plans for your staycation, OS Ride could be the app for you, with routes from the 2014 Grand Depart, as well as the 2007, 1997 and 1974 stages around the UK. Each route comes with an option to break it up into sections suitable for all levels of rider, or to perhaps be completed over a number of days.


Just in case you are still stuck for ideas…

  • Explore your local area: take a map or OS getamap print, and a compass or the virtual compass on OS locate and discover more about the landscape around you
  • Try out geocaching with the family and search for hidden treasures, or make your own treasure hunt with friends with some treats.
  • Have a day out in a National Park and find a great route for a walk or bike ride, ponds to skim stones on or just hills to roll down!
  • Make a quiz using map symbols and test your friends and family! (Great fun even if the weather is not so nice!)
  • Give something a new lease of life with a Map Makeover! Redesign a Lampshade, Wardrobe or any other flat surface with OS getamap printouts or an old paper map!



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2 Responses

  1. Abul Hassan

    I have been searching for how to read a map with a compass. This blogg is the best information I found. I am now relieved that my daughter and I will have a good companion in our iPhone when go to climb Mount Snowden in two weeks time.

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