Data visualisations show Britain’s most trodden paths

Our OS Maps users created over 300,000 public routes across Great Britain in 2018 (covering some 2,950,000 miles…) and we were curious to see where you most (and least) enjoy exploring. Our Data Scientist Andrew Radburn set to work analysing the data before our Data Visualisation expert Charley Glynn set to work to showcase the results.

Data visualisation showing the OS Maps routes across Great Britain

Analysing OS Maps route data

Andrew broke Great Britain down into kilometre squares (280,345 of them) to analyse all of the routes passing through each one. We discovered that:

  • Snowdon has the busiest 1km2 grid square in Britain with 2,370 routes at the summit (SH6054)
  • The Peak District village of Edale (SK1285) has the grid square with the most starting points for routes.
  • Grid square SK1789 featuring Fairholmes in the Peak District has the most end points for routes (is there a good pub we wondered?)

Animated gif showing the most popular grid squares for OS Maps routes - Snowdon and the Peak District

The National Parks, unsurprisingly, dominated the 20 busiest grid squares, with Snowdonia, the Lake District and the Peak District filling all of the spots. But we were pleased to see plenty of routes passing through our towns and cities, with Brighton, Manchester and Birmingham all featuring highly.

Animated gif showing a selection of British cities with OS Maps routes

Visualising the OS Maps route data

Charley took Andy’s results and set about creating a series of data visualisations to showcase the results. The overview poster for 2018 is the third in the series, showing the geography of Great Britain solely through OS Maps routes. The darker areas demonstrate a higher concentration of OS Maps routes. You can compare it to 2017 and 2016 in our previous blogs.

OS Maps routes showing National Trails and Great Trails


The heavy colouring around National Parks and National Trails around Great Britain speak for themselves, but Charley was also drawn to how clearly some coastal areas are defined through people’s routes. He picked some areas of interest to look into, including the South West of England, shown below.

Data visualisation of OS Maps routes in the south west of Britain

His work also showcases the areas we don’t create as many routes, often in beautiful areas. It’s surprising that Carmarthenshire, west of the Brecon Beacons, is one of the areas of Great Britain with the fewest recorded routes.

Ensuring that we live the GetOutside image that we promote at OS, we were also pleased to see our head office site in Southampton clearly outlined, from the number of team members who head out for walks, runs and cycle rides over the lunch period!

Data visualisation showing OS Maps routes around Ordnance Survey's Southampton head office

Both Andrew and Charley have enjoyed working on the third iteration of our OS Maps data. Since the service launched in 2015, users have added more than 2.3 million private and public walking, running and cycling routes. These routes can now be viewed on a map, or as 3D fly-throughs and even in real-life Augmented Reality using the Tabletop 3D feature. Find out more about OS Maps on our website and try the features out with our free 7-day trial.

Top 20 1km grid squares

1 SH6054 Snowdon (Summit)
2 SK1285 Edale
3 NY2107 Scafell Pike
4 NY2308 Allen Crags
5 NY2208 Great End / Long Pike
6 NY3415 Helvellyn
7 SK1384 Edale (Hollins Cross)
8 SK1687 Hope Cross
9 SK1587 Crookstome Hill
10 SK1789 Fairholmes
11 NY2806 Dungeon Ghyll / Raven Crag
12 NY3704 Ambleside
13 NY2514 Longthwaite
14 SK1283 Edale (Mam Tor)
15 NY2906 Great Lngdale
16 SK0886 Edale Head / Jacob’s Ladder
17 SK0786 Edale Cross
18 NY3511 Fairfield
19 NY3414 Nethermost Pike
20 SH6455 Pen-y-Pass


Find out more

See all of Charley’s stunning data visualisations on our Flickr page: https://www.flickr.com/photos/ordnancesurvey

Read more about the analysis in our press release.

With thanks to Scottish Natural Heritage for the data on Scotland’s Great Trails.


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18 Responses

  1. Roddie Grant

    Please stop the changing graphics. There isn’t enough time to process one image before the next one appears.

    1. Hi Roddie

      If you’re not a fan of the animated gifs, all of the images are also shown via the blog link to our Flickr page.

      Many thanks

  2. Steve Richardson

    Hello Gemma. Is it possible to access the dataset that lies behind these maps? Is it Open Data or © Ordnance Survey?

    1. Hi Steve

      This isn’t part of our OS OpenData products, so the data isn’t available for release on this one. All of the routes are public routes in our OS Maps service though.

      Many thanks

  3. Pingback : Twenty faavourite walks, according to Ordnance Survey anyway – WildþingUK

  4. Malcolm Preen

    For the last month or so, if I try to save a route, I get “something went wrong”. I’ve removed and re-installed the app (android), without success.

    Can you suggest anything I can do?

    1. Hi Malcolm

      Can you give me a little more information so that our Customer Services team can offer a resolution? Could you confirm the make and model of your device and the version of Android software which you are running? If you’d prefer to speak to the team direct, you can also call them on 03456 050505 or email customerservices@os.uk

      Many thanks

      1. Robert Struthers

        I have the same problem on a Motorola e5 running Android 8.0.0 and the latest OS Maps app version I’ve saved a couple of tracks in the past but the last two just timed out with the ‘Sorry, something went wrong’ error message.

        1. Jocelyn

          Robert, the time out message is usually when a user has created a long walk and while trying to save it it simply times out. The way round this is to break the walk/route up in to smaller walks/routes. If this particular walk was not a long walk, it could be when trying to save it the connection was lost (you need a wifi connection to save a walk/route). If you have any further questions, please email us at customerservices@os.uk . Thanks, Jocelyn

  5. Greg Tingey

    I would like to se a more detailed image of the “London” picture, especially as it seems I live between two of the most-used in outer Lnondon ( NE segment )
    Is it possible to get a copy directly to my email address?
    Probably unsurprising as there is a little network of footways around the old village, which has now been subsumed into London ….

  6. Tav Ratcliffe

    You are aware that Wales has not relaxed lock-down surely ?
    Although you do say “Avoid Snowdon”, you should have said “It is illegal to go to Snowdon” and fines are now over a £1,000.
    Also, using your Cardiff graphic as 1 of the examples of getting about in our towns & cities is unfair and less than thoughtful.

    1. Gemma

      Hi Tav

      Thanks for getting in touch. This article dates from March 2019, a year before the pandemic, and was looking at the routes people had used most commonly in our OS Maps app in 2018.

      Many thanks

    1. Gemma

      Hi T

      Thanks for getting in touch. This article dates from March 2019, a year before the pandemic, and was looking at the routes people had used most commonly in our OS Maps app in 2018.

      Many thanks

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