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Maps of Scotland – Planning your Adventure

Posted on Apr 22, 2016 by Glen Cousquer

Maps of Scotland are the first step in so many of our adventures. But they can tell you a lot more than where you are and where you’re going.

We’re so lucky today with the variety of mapping tools available online. Here’s my guide to a few favourites.

As a guide, one of my best friends and constant companions is my map. It is a trusted ally in so many situations. It has, however, taken a long time to build up that relationship and understand the various signs and clues that are the keys to many a mystery. Over the years, I have learnt to read these accurately, gleaning valuable information about what I should encounter on the ground. This is very rewarding and is something I love to share with my groups. But before you step out the door there are some fantastic online maps of Scotland that can help you plan your adventure and get inspired.

Using Maps of Scotland to plan a New Adventure

When planning your next adventure in Scotland, you can access current maps online to help you in your wild exploits. Useful websites to head for are:

  • Route Notes & Planning: Walk Highlands
  • Ordnance Survey Maps Online: Bing Ordnance Survey Maps
  • Create your own map: My Maps with Google allows for quick and easy creation of online maps to plan your journey and share info. For example we used Google Maps to share our favourite eateries in Scotland: Our Pick of Scotland’s Restaurants. This app allows you to pin point locations and plan exact routes. You can also collaborate with your fellow adventurers to share your plans. Check it out on Google: My Maps

Capture that shot: Maps for photography

Maps of Scotland - Planning your Adventure

Great use of early light by photographer Colin Prior. Shot at Bioda Bhuidhe, Trotternish Ridge, The Quiraing, Isle of Skye.

 

  • Great photography is all about the light. So planning your shoot becomes a lot easier when you know exactly what the sun (or moon) will be doing and when. The Photographer’s Ephemeris (TPE) helps you plan outdoor photography shoots in natural light.  It provides a map-centric sun and moon calculator which allows you to see how and when the light will fall on the land, day or night, for any location on earth!  
  • Finally, if you are keen to see the northern lights and wish to find the best location for aurora watching and photography, there is a fantastic resource available from Aurora Watch UK. This resource forecasts the strength of the aurora by location. You can sign up for alerts and be ready to head out to capture those magical images when the alerts go out for your area. For more aurora photography tips – check out our How To article.

Putting History Back on the Map

Every now and again one encounters a real mystery. This is the story of that mystery and how it was eventually solved.

I was out with a group on the south side of Loch Tay a few years ago and had chosen to follow a small river. Pushing through some undergrowth, I was surprised to see a beautiful, old, moss-covered bridge of the kind pack horses would have crossed many centuries ago. There was, however, no sign of this bridge either 1:50,000 or 1:25,000 Ordnance Survey maps.

Maps of Scotland - Planning your Adventure

Old Bridge on Loch Tay

 

Surprised and mystified, I resolved to investigate further. I visited the RCAHMS website and that of Historic Scotland and searched their records. I could find evidence of the old communities that had once existed beside the river (the farmsteads, the field systems, the shielings and roadways) but there was no sign of the bridge. Next I visited the National Library of Scotland and trawled through all the old maps of the area. This is a fantastic resource as it’s now accessible online. So what did my research show up? Well, there was no sign of the bridge on the early Ordnance Survey maps produced during the last Century. These form a series of maps produced on a scale of one inch to the mile and all failed to show any bridge or road.

So, I went back through the archives into the mid 18th Century to consult the earliest maps. The road was not present on one of Scotland’s oldest maps, the Roy Map (1747- 1755). But then, lo and behold, on the James Stobie map printed in 1783, depicting the counties of Perth and Clackmannan on four sheets, I found the old road that ran along the south side of Loch Tay. It was again present on the 1805 edition (imprint) of the same map. And again, on the Perthshire Sheet LXXX (Survey date 1861, Publication date 1867), I found the trace of the old road that had run through those parts and served the ruined farmstead of Chraoibhe. After that the trail went dry. Somehow the road and the bridge had been erased from history.

Excited by the find, I contacted Historic Scotland and told them of the bridge, providing a six figure grid reference and a set of photos. They confirmed that they had no record of it and that they would register it as part of Scotland’s heritage.

The trees and the passing of time had hidden the bridge. But it was there to be discovered and investigated. Maps are wonderful things and will continue to serve us well as sources of information… although you may have to do a bit of digging!!

Some useful resources for digging through history:

  • Find Maps of Scotland’s monuments here.
  • The 1:25,000 Ordnance Survey map is particularly rich in information and provides many insights into the past for it maps out many of the historical remnants of long-gone communities, eras and ways of life. Use Ordnance Survey maps online here.

How do you use maps for your adventures?

 

About the author

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Glen Cousquer

I grew up with a passion for ornithology, wildlife conservation and the outdoors. This led me to study avian physiology and veterinary medicine at the University of Edinburgh before going on to work as a wildlife veterinary officer with the RSPCA. A keen mountaineer, I hold the Summer, Winter and International Mountain Leader awards as well as the Wilderness Guide award.

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