Plan a great walk in the UK with Ordnance Survey

Days out, Walking, Nature

Posted by Ordnance Survey on 16th October 2023

Woman using the OS Maps app to plan her walking routeCopyright Ordnance Survey

Does your next trip involve getting out in nature? Do you plan to explore nearby scenery? Incorporating a walk or two into your next holiday will help you make the most of your time away and keep you feeling fit and strong. There’s no denying that fresh air does wonders for our physical and mental health.

Exploring somewhere new on foot allows you to get a real feel for a place. You’ll discover all the nooks and crannies inaccessible by car and come across some real hidden gems.

To get started on the right foot, our friends at Ordnance Survey have put together this handy walking guide to help you explore the great outdoors with ease during your next holiday in the UK.

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Using the OS Maps app and a paper map during a walkCopyright Ordnance Survey

Know where you’re going with walking maps

One of the most important things to consider when walking somewhere new is navigation. No one wants to spend their holiday getting lost! Maps are your navigation companions, helping you stay on track and so it’s important to have the right one.

The OS Maps app includes any-time access to all 604 OS Paper Maps, even when you’re out of signal range. It also contains thousands of readymade tried and tested routes and allows you to see exactly where you are and where you need to go.

If you’re heading into the hills or somewhere remote, it’s a good idea to take a paper map as a backup in case your phone runs out of battery, or the weather takes a turn for the worse. The useful map finder tool helps you see which paper maps cover each area of Britain. For walking, OS Explorer maps (the orange ones) are best as they show the most detail – they even include symbols for pubs and car parks. Brush up your map reading skills with these free map reading guides.

Walker exploring a coastal pathCopyright Ordnance Survey

Your holiday walk, your way

Next, determine the difficulty level that matches your fitness and experience. For beginners, opt for easy or moderate walks to build confidence. The walks within OS Maps come with a difficulty rating which takes into consideration factors like length and elevation. Most routes include useful descriptions, ratings and reviews; these can offer more information on what to expect.

If you’re using a paper map, take a look at the contour lines to gauge how steep the terrain is and the type of paths you’ll be following. Here in the UK, we’re lucky enough to have an extensive network of waymarked trails. If you’re holidaying close to a National, Regional or Long-distance Trail, walking a section will provide a hassle-free day out as they are all waymarked and most offer the chance to stock up on food and drink en route or in the towns and villages nearby. For more information on identifying suitable paths, check out this guide to OS Maps symbols.

A montage of walkers going through a gate, Winspit, and Janet's Foss waterfallCopyright Ordnance Survey

Exploring types of walks

Choose from scenic nature trails, waterfall walks, historic routes or urban explorations – there are many different types of walks to choose from here in the UK. Walking doesn’t have to involve a strenuous slog up a mountain; a leisurely city stroll will allow you to immerse yourself in local culture and a coastal walk may take you to a secluded beach. So, before you set off, think about what type of walk you want to do.

There may be other factors you’ll want to consider, like whether a route is suitable for wheelchairs or dogs. Is the walk family friendly? How many facilities are there en route, and is there a suitable place to park?

A couple taking a photograph on their walkCopyright Ordnance Survey

What to bring on a walk

The beauty of walking is that you don’t need much to get started. If you’re wandering around the local area, it really is as simple as stepping out the door. Urban walks need little in the way of kit, just some comfortable shoes and water. Countryside walks require a little more planning as they may be wet or muddy underfoot so it's always good to think about your footwear - and even your socks. You'll need supportive shoes suitable for the terrain and breathable socks - plus a spare pair if they're likely to get damp.

You may also be out for longer, so check the weather and remember to pack a few layers just in case you get cold or wet. Longer walks, especially those in the hills require more gear like a first aid kit and waterproofs – the weather can quickly change at elevation.

Most of the time, a 20-litre backpack will be sufficient. Take a look at these guides on what to wear walking and what to take walking for more of an idea - they cover advice on footwear, appropriate layers as well as any accessories such as a buff, sunglasses or a hat. Most importantly, remember the snacks! Being well-fed and watered will keep everyone happy.

Three different walking maps on the OS Maps appCopyright Ordnance Survey

Final considerations 

It’s important to stay safe when getting outside, so think about where your route will take you. Are you close to any danger areas? Will you be back before dark? Are there any coastal hazards like tides or land erosion? Mountain Rescue’s #adventuresmart campaign helps you remember the three most important things to consider:

  1. Am I confident that I have the knowledge and skills for the day?
  2. Do I know what the weather will be like?
  3. Do I have the right gear?

Remember to always tell someone where you are going and what time you’ll be back as although walking may seem like a simple activity, it's important to stay safe.

And finally, Helen from the OS Team offers her personal advice on walking during your next holiday:

“The first thing I do when I arrive somewhere new is go for a short walk. It’s totally free, I rarely need any equipment and it helps me get a real feel for the place and find my bearings. Once I’ve settled in – usually with coffee and cake from the local café – I look at my map.

I use the OS Maps app for navigating out on the trails but for me, nothing beats a paper map when it comes to planning. I look to see if there are any long-distance trails in the area and use the map to join up public rights of way (green dashed lines), often connecting official trails which are marked on the map. I look at the contour lines to check there are no steep hills (I’m meant to be relaxing after all!) and I look at the terrain to see if I’ll be passing through forests, boulders, or scree – all shown on OS mapping.

I’m a confident route planner but I still enjoy finding recommended routes in OS Maps to save me a job – I am on holiday first and foremost!”  

Explore the UK on your next staycation

Enjoy the beauty of the outdoors, connect with nature, and create lasting memories during your holiday. For more information on route planning, read this guide on how to plan a walk in five easy steps. Benefit from a free three-month subscription to OS Maps when booking through

Holidays in the UK

Disclaimer: Whilst every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of the information at the time of writing, please ensure you check carefully before making any decisions based on the contents within this article.