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Doing the Walk Yourself: Maps

When I walked across the country back in 2003, digital mapping was in its infancy and the only real choice was to use Ordnance Survey maps to find your way from Land's End to John o'Groats. These days digital mapping is available to everyone, and for most LEJOG walkers, smartphones are a less bulky and potentially cheaper solution than paper maps, but some people still prefer traditional paper maps, so here's some advice on both technologies.

Digital Maps

These days, most people tend to use digital maps on their smartphones for walking LEJOG; it's a lot easier than lugging round heavy and expensive paper maps, with the added advantage that you always know where you are. If you want to walk across the country digitally, then you'll need three things:

You can spend a fortune on state-of-the-art Ordnance Survey-enabled GPS systems that combine all three in one tough package, or you can cobble something together with a cheap smartphone for a much smaller budget, but whatever your method, it's definitely possible to walk from Land's End to John o'Groats using nothing but digital mapping (and plenty of people do just that). Here's a very short guide to the most popular options.

There is also a GPX file for the entire walk, though you may find that this is too big for your GPX app.

Whatever your solution, bear in mind that if the batteries run out on your phone or digital map and you don't know where you are, then you could be in real trouble. Always try to carry spare batteries or a backup navigation system, and don't expect to have a mobile signal out there in the wilderness. It isn't like using a sat-nav in your car...

Paper Maps

One of the biggest challenges of doing a 1111-mile walk with paper maps is carrying them all. There are two main options, both from the Ordnance Survey. Best, but also the heaviest and most expensive, are their amazing 1:25,000 Explorer maps; for those on a budget, their 1:50,000 Landranger maps contain less detail, but they're good enough if you don't mind getting lost every now and then. I went for the Explorer option and needed 54 maps to get from Land's End to John o'Groats. Obviously it wasn't an option to carry all these maps from one end to the other – 54 maps is a hell of a large pile – but luckily my girlfriend visited me regularly and brought me new batches while relieving me of the maps I'd already walked across. I also got batches posted to B&Bs along the way and sent back used maps via the Post Office, so the maximum number I ended up carrying at a time was 15.

The Southwest

You need 15 Explorer maps to cover the 238.5 miles from Land's End to Bath, if you go through the middle of Cornwall, Devon and Somerset. There aren't too many long-distance paths round these parts – not heading east-west, anyway – so you have to make up your own route a lot of the time, which is where Explorer maps really come into their own.

Map of the southwest of England showing Explorer maps

Here's a list of the Explorer maps required to follow my route through southwest England from Land's End to Bath, going through the centre of Cornwall, Devon and Somerset:

Map Number Map Name
102 Land's End
103 The Lizard
104 Redruth & St Agnes
105 Falmouth & Mevagissey
106 Newquay & Padstow
109 Bodmin Moor
112 Launceston
OL28 Dartmoor
113 Okehampton
114 Exeter & the Exe Valley
128 Taunton & Blackdown Hills
140 Quantock Hills & Bridgwater
141 Cheddar Gorge
142 Shepton Mallet
155 Bristol & Bath

The Midlands

You need 12 Explorer maps to cover the 200.5 miles from Bath to Edale. The route takes in three days of the Cotswold Way, three-and-a-half days of the Severn Way, three days of the Staffordshire Way and two-and-a-half days of the Limestone Way. The way-markers are not bad and all these tracks are marked on Explorer maps, and generally navigation is pretty straightforward (well, apart from the Limestone Way, which is very hard to follow in places).

Map of the Midlands showing Explorer maps

Here's a list of the Explorer maps required to follow my route through the Midlands from Bath to the start of the Pennine Way at Edale:

Map Number Map Name
155 Bristol & Bath
167 Thornbury, Dursley & Yate
168 Stroud, Tetbury & Malmesbury
179 Gloucester & Cheltenham
190 Malvern Hills & Bredon Hill
204 Worcester & Droitwich Spa
218 Wyre Forest & Kidderminster
242 Telford & Ironbridge
244 Cannock Chase
259 Derby
OL24 Peak District (White Peak)
OL1 Peak District (Dark Peak)

The North

You need just 9 Explorer maps to cover the 251.5 miles from Edale to Jedburgh, following the Pennine Way for most of the distance. I avoided the depressing day between Alston and Greenhead by taking the South Tyne Trail to Haltwhistle instead, and on the last day End-to-End walkers need to fork west to Jedburgh instead of tackling the Cheviots (unless you really fancy finishing the Pennine Way, which is up to you). Trail finding is easy enough: just follow the other walkers!

Map of the north of England showing Explorer maps

Here's a list of the Explorer maps required to follow my route through northern England from Edale to Jedburgh (i.e. the Pennine Way without the last section across the Cheviots):

Map Number Map Name
OL1 Peak District (Dark Peak)
OL21 South Pennines
OL2 Yorkshire Dales (South)
OL30 Yorkshire Dales (North)
OL19 Howgill Fells
OL31 North Pennines
OL43 Hadrian's Wall
OL42 Kielder Water & Forest
OL16 The Cheviot Hills

Southern Scotland

You need 13 Explorer maps to cover the 219 miles from Jedburgh to Fort William. This route only makes sense if you want to take in the West Highland Way and the Great Glen Way, as a much more direct route is to head north from Edinburgh to Perth, from where a new cycle track provides a good walkway to Inverness. Both options have their fans, and your enjoyment will mainly be dictated by the weather, whichever route you take.

Map of southern Scotland showing Explorer maps

Here's a list of the Explorer maps required to follow my route through southern Scotland from Jedburgh to Fort William:

Map Number Map Name
OL16 The Cheviot Hills
338 Galashiels, Selkirk & Melrose
337 Peebles & Innerleithen
344 Pentland Hills
350 Edinburgh
349 Falkirk, Cumbernauld & Livingston
348 Campsie Fells
342 Glasgow
347 Loch Lomond South
364 Loch Lomond North
377 Loch Etive & Glen Orchy
384 Glen Coe & Glen Etive
392 Ben Nevis & Fort William

Northern Scotland

You need 9 Explorer maps to cover the 201.5 miles from Fort William to John o'Groats. The route takes in the entire Great Glen Way from Fort William to Inverness, and then follows the coastal road from Inverness to Wick before finishing at John o'Groats itself.

Map of northern Scotland showing Explorer maps

Here's a list of the Explorer maps required to follow my route through northern Scotland from Fort William to John o'Groats. Note that there's about an inch of the route that isn't actually covered by these maps; on Explorer 416 the Great Glen Way wanders off the map as you go from one side to the other. If you want to make sure that every single step is covered then you'll need Explorer 431 (Glen Urquhart & Strathglass), but frankly I wouldn't bother, as the track is impossible to lose.

Map Number Map Name
392 Ben Nevis & Fort William
400 Loch Lochy & Glen Roy
416 Inverness, Loch Ness & Culloden
432 Black Isle
438 Dornoch & Tain
441 Lairg, Bonar Bridge & Golspie
444 Helmsdale & Strath of Kildonan
450 Wick & the Flow Country
451 Thurso & John o'Groats