Great Britain


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

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Britain’s largest islands

Disclaimer: please note that due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the poster is temporarily unavailable.

UPDATE – buy the poster here: https://onlineshop.shef.ac.uk/product-catalogue/professional-services/university-gifts-souvenirs/great-britains-islands-poster

Great Britain is an island in its own right, but aside from the mainland, there are hundreds of islands around the British coast, many uninhabited*. Inspired by David Garcia’s data visualisation of the Philippines, our GeoDataViz team worked with Alasdair Rae at the University of Sheffield to explore Britain’s largest islands.

They found that there are 82 English, Scottish and Welsh islands larger than 5km2. Scotland boasts the vast majority with 71, not surprising when you consider the Outer Hebrides, Shetland and Orkney and other beautiful islands off the coast. Wales had just 2 entries and England 9.

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25 years since the last OS benchmark

You may know about our trig pillars, but did you know that there are more nostalgic reminders of how we used to map Great Britain? Have you ever seen one of these while you’ve been out and about? If so, it is highly likely you have spotted one of our renowned benchmarks. 2018 marks 25 years since the last traditionally-cut arrow style benchmark was carved on a milestone located outside The Fountain pub in Loughton.

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Spring scenery around Britain

We’re lucky in Britain that our seasons are so wonderfully defined; each one quite distinct from its predecessor due to the colour of the leaves on the trees, the abundance of native flowers and the low-lying mist on the ground. It would be difficult to choose a favourite season, even the tumultuous grey skies of late autumn, the withering heat of summer and the frozen ground of mid-winter have their charms – but there’s something about spring; this awakening of nature after its sleepy hibernation and regeneration of flora and fauna.

Here are a few places where you can enjoy the best spring scenery in Britain – if not the world! Read More


Drive me to the moon…

Following the government’s recent announcements around investing in roads and infrastructure across Britain, we decided to take a dip into our database and investigate some of the 450 million features in there. We make over 10,000 changes a day to the geographic database of Great Britain and are already looking forward to capturing the details of any new roads, as well as changes to existing ones.

Take a look at some of the figures we’ve pulled out from our database.


Our video shows Britain’s road network too:


GB cities quiz

overvew-gb-mapTime to challenge yourself – how well do you know Great Britain’s cities? You at the back, no Googling!

Question 1: In which city is the Great Central Railway, the only place in the world where you can see full-size steam engines passing each other, located?

A: Leeds

B: Birmingham

C: Leicester

D: Manchester Read More


Where is the centre of Great Britain?

Is Haltwhistle the centre of Britain?

Is Haltwhistle the centre of Britain?

One of the most common questions we are asked in Ordnance Survey’s Press Office is ‘where is the geographic centre of Britain?’ Most recently, the BBC got in contact with us, framing their article around the question of Scottish Independence and the effect that would have on the centre of Great Britain. The question continues to bubble up as it always has been a contentious issue with many differing views on locations – and even how you define the centre, define Great Britain, and how you measure it.

As you’ll see in the BBC article, the town of Haltwhistle in Northumberland proudly proclaims itself to be the centre of Great Britain as it is mid-way along the mainland’s longest line of longitude; and there is a stone cross in Meriden, near Coventry, claiming to be the geographical centre of England. Some people claim the point farthest from the sea must be the centre (a spot just east of Church Flatts Farm, about a mile south-east of Coton-in-the-Elms, Derbyshire), but others don’t think this can accurately be called the centre…so, where is the centre of Great Britain? Read More


Where is the centre of Great Britain?

We’re often asked this and it’s been a bone of contention for many years. As the mapping agency for Great Britain, it’s our job to survey the features of the landscape – and not to determine the centre of Great Britain, but we still get asked regularly. Views vary widely as people disagree on the definition of Great Britain, how you determine the centre and how accurate the calculations are.

A surveying expert will tell you that there can’t be an absolute centre for a three dimensional land mass sitting on the surface of a sphere and surrounded by the ebb and flow of sea water. The tides alone mean that the shape and size of Great Britain changes on a constant basis. Nevermind the consideration of whether to include Great Britain and her islands or just the mainland itself…the simple fact is that different projections, scales and methods of calculation will produce different results.

So where is the centre? We made a computer calculation based on our 1:625 000 scale mapping to find the centre of Great Britain (including 401 associated islands). The calculation was achieved by linking our 1: 625 000 database with a computer programme based on the standard mathematical principle for determining the centre of a two dimensional irregular object. In basic terms, the principle calculates the point at which the object would balance horizontally on the head of a theoretical pin – its centre of gravity. This is sometimes known as the ‘gravitational method’ and has been used as a scientific application by everyone from Captain Cook to NASA.

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World place names in Great Britain

You can do a world tour without the need for one of these ...

You can do a world tour without the need for one of these …

Looking at the weather out of the window summer is a dim and distant memory, if indeed it ever happened at all! As the nights start to draw in and the leaves turn to various shades of brown I thought that we’d take ourselves off on a world tour today – without the need for a passport! Within our own shores we have places that sound as though they should be elsewhere in the world …

Let’s take in the sites of Europe first – we could go to Barcelona (Cornwall – OS grid reference SX219535), Holland (Surrey – OS grid reference TQ400504), Moscow (North Ayrshire – OS grid reference NS487402), Florence (Stoke on Trent – OS grid reference SJ918422) or Dresden (Stoke on Trent – OS grid reference SJ910423).

Heading into the Middle East we come across Bethlehem (Carmarthenshire – OS grid reference SN688253), Jerusalem (Cumbria – OS grid reference NY657194) and Jordan (Devon – OS grid reference SX699750).

Rather than heading out across the Atlantic why not try Hollywood (Worcestershire – OS grid reference SP083774), Dallas (Moray – OS grid reference NJ114519), Houston (Renfrewshire – OS grid reference NS405668) or Canada (Hampshire – OS grid reference SU287182).

If you’re after an antipodean adventure then look no further than Melbourne (Derbyshire – OS grid reference SK397248), Botany Bay (Enfield – OS grid reference TQ299 992), Sydney (Cheshire – OS grid reference SJ726565), New Zealand (Wiltshire – OS grid reference SU011773), Christchurch (Dorset – OS grid reference SZ153926) or Wellington (Telford – OS grid reference SJ646122).

Using Ordnance Survey maps – where else can you visit on your world tour without leaving Great Britain?