There are different kinds of Lake District map. Which is the “right” one depends on how you intend to use it. There are “horses for courses”, to borrow an old saying from the title of my previous maps article back in January. While mentioning that article I should say that I don’t apologise for more or less duplicating what I wrote there. It is so important. A walker’s guidebook, even of the best such as the Wainwright Guides or the Fellranger series, although very valuable is no replacement for a map. Toward the end of this article I’ll also refer to the importance of a map and compass combination.
Types of Lake District Map
Illustrated here is the Lake District issue in the British Mountain Map series published by HARVEY in collaboration with the British Mountaineering Council. Its big advantages are:
- it is waterproof, being printed on a tough polyethylene;
- almost the whole of the Lake District is shown on a single map
- major climbing, and walking, areas are shown at a larger scale on the reverse side.
This map get excellent reviews, although many users say they would use it in conjunction with the relevant Ordnance Survey 1:25,000 “OS Explorer Active” map with its greater detail (and also available in weatherproof version). One reviewer says that this is a map “specifically designed for walkers rather than general purpose OS map. It leaves out some the clutter on OS maps and highlights features useful to the fell walker.” Another, however, writes: “I’d take this map on a walk but would plan it on an OS map. But if I was going to walk off-path the OS map would be essential,” suggesting the two together as a good combination.
Lake District Maps – Ordnance Survey
Although to cover the Lake District takes four OS Explorer maps due to their larger scale (and in my experience the area I want almost always seems to be at the junction of two!) it is true to say that the vast majority of experienced Lakeland walkers rely on these. The level of detail is unsurpassed, and they are available alternatively on traditional paper or weatherproof laminate.
The OS Landranger series is at around half the scale of the Explorer maps and is perfectly adequate for walkers who do not venture into more remote areas away from well-trodden tracks. It should be noted, though, that it still takes three maps to cover the Lake District more or less fully.
Lake District Maps For Motorists
The Landranger series may also be appreciated by people whose walking largely consists of shorter distances from the car as following the roads is easier at this scale.
An excellent alternative, though, if you’re not likely to venture far from the roads, either on four wheels or two, is the Lake District OS Travel Map or Tour Map as it is sometimes called. This one includes tourist information, town plans and scenic areas in addition to roads, rail and cycle routes (not that there’s much rail left!). Don’t expect it to show every small lane, but as one reviewer on the Amazon site puts it, “If you want an introduction to the area and the whole area on one sheet for less than a fiver, this is the one for you!”
“Map and Compass Go Together”
In the opening paragraph I promised to mention the importance of a compass along with a map. On very clear days you may not need one, but one characteristic of the Lake District weather is that what starts as a sunny morning can quickly become a misty afternoon. If you’re going up high you should have a good compass in addition to your 1:25,000 scale map.
You may not want to go to extent of a top notch expedition quality instrument such as the Silva Compass Expedition 15TDCL, but a good mid-range model such as the Expedition 4-360 model illustrated above should give excellent service for many years. It gets great reviews from many experienced walkers. For example: “I use the Silva primarily for hill walking using 1:25,000 OS maps. Before I purchased, I did some research into the features you need on a compass (and those you don’t) … and the Expedition 4 fits the bill perfectly.”
Finally, a word on GPS. Some people think that a GPS handheld is a replacement for map and compass. This may be true in some places. In the Lake District it is not! Due to the terrain reception varies considerably. You don’t want to be caught out in a remote place with no map and shouting up at the clouds to send a signal. By all means have one as a second string (and I’ve shown a modestly priced version, the Garmin Dakota 10 Handheld GPS, here) but please,
Don’t venture out on the Lakeland fells without a suitable map
The Mountain Rescue people have quite enough to do without anyone else adding unnecessarily to their activites.