Britain’s most popular routes

When we started to analyse the 500,000 plus routes in our OS Maps service, it was no surprise to us that the Lake District would top the table as the nation’s favourite place to #GetOutside. But we were also interested in the urban walks that inspire exploration. Our Cartographic Designer, Charley Glynn, extracted all of the public route information and created a series of stunning data visualisations to showcase town and city route favourites.

The ten cities and towns in Britain with the most routes in OS Maps

The ten cities and towns in Britain with the most routes in OS Maps

Once again, the Lake District topped the league table with Keswick and Ambleside, clearly ahead of nearest rivals Guildford and the City of Westminster. You can see the full list below.

The 500,000 plus routes were illustrated in a series of beautiful data visualisations by Charley, who found it amazing that the people who created routes for their outdoors adventures had logged almost every bit of British coastline. It neatly frames the rest of the data and gives the illusion you are looking at a map of Great Britain. The darker, thicker areas illustrate the higher concentration of routes and reveal popularity.


The Yorkshire city of Leeds made it into the top ten, and with Roundhay Park in the area, it’s easy to see why it’s a popular area to get outside. One of the biggest city parks in Europe, it has over 700 acres of parkland, lakes, woodland and award-winning gardens.

OS Maps routes visualised for Leeds

OS Maps routes visualised for Leeds

Top 10 cities and towns and number of routes

Keswick – 1746

Ambleside – 1619

Guildford – 1146

City of Westminster – 1129

Richmond upon Thames – 1099

Winchester – 1089

Leeds – 1072

Sheffield – 1043

Bath – 1041

Bakewell – 1006

You can see all of these areas visualised in our Flickr gallery.

Outside the top ten

We couldn’t resist taking a look at some other popular areas that didn’t make it into the top ten. London is particularly clearly defined in Charley’s data visualisation, especially along the River Thames and on the bridges crossing it.


Closer to home for us, the Isle of Wight and Southampton Water were also perfectly mapped by the routes plotted in OS Maps. You can see where people have recorded routes whilst zipping about the Solent – both on popular ferry routes and pleasure boats judging by the lines created.


See higher resolution versions of the visualisations on our Flickr gallery.

16 Responses

  1. Pingback : Because it’s Friday: “Britain’s most trodden paths?” by Ordnance Survey | Graham Chastney

  2. Douglas Scott

    Just wondering what data was used to analyse the route’s popularity. Was twitter used? Or were polylines harvested from Google?


  3. Peter Goulding

    Hello Gemma
    I would really be interested in seeing what routes are walked around the Brecklands area of Norfolk and Suffolk. Is there any way I can download, or examine the map in more detail away from the more popular areas?
    Fantastic project by the way

    1. Hi Peter

      Great to hear that you like the project. We created the visualisations based on all of the routes contained within our OS Maps service. We haven’t created detailed visualisations for every area of the country, just a small selection to show the areas most populated with routes, so we don’t have one for Brecklands set up. I can pass the feedback along to the team, but at this time, we don’t have any plans to release further visualisations or to make the route data downloadable. We will, of course, shout loud and clear if that changes.

      Thanks, Gemma

  4. Sally S

    Hi Gemma,

    These look really beautiful. Are you planning to sell them as posters at all, and if so where can I find them?



  5. Alan Winston

    I wish I could study this with an http://www.openrailwaymap.org/ as an overlay, to see railtrails, both official and unofficial, and identify walks adjacent to active railways.

    It would be especially useful if OS could do a tileset that could be used with Android/iOS apps such as AlpineQuest, Gaia, Osmand, ViewRanger, etc. With at least one of those offering the NLS historical OS tilesets, and several offering current OS or comparable mapping, some very interesting studies could be done.

  6. P Moorse

    What a shame! All this work and most people can’t make use of it because there’s no way of drilling down on the detailed information.

  7. Hi ,

    We run a newspaper on Dartmoor called The Moorlander and we’d love to run an article on this, are we allowed to use the images?

    Kind Regards

    Ross Tibbles – Deputy Editor

  8. Pingback : Lake District named as Britain’s top walking destination | Buttermere Web

  9. Barbara Thompson

    Great work but agree with comments above- would make fantastic posters but mostly would like to use in practice especially to use least walked oath as per Telegraph feature

  10. Karen Green

    I agree these all look amazing and would make fantastic wall art. I am hoping the positive feedback might make this happen.
    Brilliant project!

  11. I’m not seeing a usable map with these as overlay. Bizarre, from the OS of all people.

    Also, what about normalizing the routes’ popularity by the prevailing local population density?

    1. Hi Tim

      Our data visualisations purely illustrate the routes that people have plotted and recorded across the country using our OS Maps service. There was no intention for them to be usable maps. We were fascinated at how people’s walking and cycling routes so clearly defined the outline of Britain, and how the National Parks are such hotspots for activity.

      I will pass your feedback along to the team who created the visualisations.

      Many thanks

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