Here are links to seven free mapping websites that are very useful for finding walk locations and for generally planning walks and other outdoor activities. While no single website is likely to offer all the features you might require, between these seven, most things should be covered.
This is one of the best sites for viewing OS maps on all scales. It is especially useful for accessing the 25k Explorer maps which can be printed off. Map grid references, Latitude and Longitude and the nearest postcode equivalents are displayed in one table.
This excellent site (recently revised for use with tablet devices as well as PC’s) displays OS maps and Google satellite images in a single or a split screen. The two interact and you can select different scale combinations. An 8 figure Grid Ref. and Lat /Long location can be shown in an on screen box, which changes as the mouse cursor moves. Google’s Streetview is also incorporated.
Routes can be plotted out with distances and heights shown. Furthermore you can also download to or accept routes from a handheld GPS receiver. The Help button explains how to use all the features.
‘WTP’ (Where's the Path) is now so popular that the limited number of daily map tile downloads is often expired by early evening.
This is great for viewing road maps with the roads named and has the option of overlaid satellite images. One of the most useful features is in their unique StreetView, which displays scenery from continuous road level photography, covering most of the UK. There is no Grid Reference data on show.
Formerly Multimap, this site offers Road, London Street and OS maps at various zoom levels. The 25k Explorer maps are included but without Grid Ref. data. Aerial images are either from satellite (as for WTP and Google) or from a lower level ‘Bird’s Eye’ view. The latter gives a unique all round view of scenery from aircraft photographs taken at oblique angles. Not all of the UK is covered. Their version of road level photography, called Streetside, is gradually being rolled out.
This offers basic mapping features on zoom-able maps down to the 50k OS , but no link to the 25k Explorer. Like ‘WTP’, Grid Ref and Lat/Long data is shown in a box linked to the mouse cursor. A Help button explains how to plot routes, measure distance and height and download to a GPS receiver. There are no imaging options.
This is based on open source software where local people can enter data to update and improve the site. The maps are especially good in urban areas and include many useful features like the location of banks, bus stops, libraries, public toilets, pubs, post boxes........not often seen on other maps. Note that the footpaths shown are not necessarily public rights of way. In the wider countryside, ‘openstreetmap’ is not as good as OS maps for geographical detail, although it depends on the locality and there should improvements with time.
For users of Garmin GPS receivers with mapping capabilities, the website http://talkytoaster.info/home.htm offers compatible map downloads in various forms, from ‘openstreetmap’. The site offers plenty of helpful information on the suitability of various types of receiver.
The owner and developer of this site, Martin Overton, is insistent that his freely available data must not be exploited for commercial purposes.
This free mapping and navigational App is only available on Android smartphones and tablets. Get it through the Play Store. There is also a YouTube video showing how to use the various features. Click on the Maverick link above for more details on how it works.
How to Print off a Free Map.
The 25k OS Explorer maps are quite expensive and the fine detail is often difficult to see. Here is how to print such maps free of charge but with a scale 60% larger.
Go to www.streetmap.co.uk and type in the location you want. When the map comes up click on the + sign to bring up the 25k map, which shows all the paths, PROWs and boundaries. It is useful to click on the box with 9x9 squares for the map to fill the screen.
If you use the Microsoft Explorer 9 browser – click on the gearwheel at the top right and select print where you can set up the page and preview the map before printing. If you use the Google Chrome browser - click on the button with 3 horizontal bars at the top right, select print from the drop down menu then preview and set up before printing.
The scale on these printed maps gives you 2.5ins/km which is much easier to see than on the OS Explorer scale of 2.5ins/mile. Printing off 2 to 4 sheets is usually enough to cover the area for a full day circular walk.