My Favourite Map Series

Lochs, Rocks, and a Bad Bog

Navigation apps are marvels of modern convenience, but for big picture inspiration there's still nothing like an old fashioned paper sheet. Unfolded on your floor or pinned to a wall a paper map can be way more than just a tool, becoming something of personal significance.

If you're a proper hill geek you may have a particular favourite. I​​​​​​n this article series we've asked a few UKH regulars to tell us about theirs. To kick things off, here's our Editor on the map he loved so much that he made the family move there.

OS Landranger 19 - Gairloch & Ullapool

Browsing a dog-eared old map can be a fascinating way to while away the hours. Retracing the route you trod last week, or last decade; plotting your next adventure; picturing 3-D topography from 2-D contours; scanning across entire ranges from the comfort of your living room - a map is a window on mountain worlds built in the imagination, maybe one day to be walked in reality. Better than a guidebook, it's not limited to proscribed routes or bound by word counts; the information is all there in its squiggly abstraction, your eye free to wander, the possibilities open-ended.

Landranger 19 - no map should be this fun  © Ordnance Survey
Landranger 19 - no map should be this fun
© Ordnance Survey

The one I most like to spend time with is OS Landranger 19 - Gairloch and Ullapool. If I could own only one Landranger sheet, this would be it - the ultimate map to the greatest mountain area of them all. Well, a large part of it.

Most British maps are a human clutter, but the abiding theme here is elemental simplicity, the predominance of rock and water. A single wiggly A-road threading the coast; two main settlements that would register nearly nowhere else as towns; houses so few that you might almost count them. And the rest? Big blocks of nothing, most of a Landranger barely touched, as yet, by the developer's heavy hand. I say nothing, but to me - and surely I'm in company - it's really everything.

Of course the real thing's not bad either  © Dan Bailey -
Of course the real thing's not bad either

Fisherfield and Letterewe: a crazy tangle of contours scored with crag symbols and haphazardly splashed blue. Hidden between the spearhead of Slioch and the stony forge of An Teallach, the wildest place in the northwest. The sheer wedge of Beinn Dearg Mor; the great wall of Beinn Lair; Carnmore, a compelling advert for the mega mountain crag walk-in; the big peaks of the Fisherfield Six, perhaps the ultimate Scottish day on foot. Unbridged rivers, a well-photographed bothy, and a lifetime's supply of walks, climbs, scrambles and camps. And let's not forget Loch Maree, no question the finest body of water in Britain. Wander it all for hours in your mind's eye, dreaming up possibilities; it's way more engaging than TikTok.

No one has a right to ask more from one map, but Landranger 19 isn't done yet. Not by half. White sand beaches and fingers of sea. The fabulous wee crags of Gairloch and Gruinard. A gnarled wonderland of mini-mountains by the coast, and the quirky, under-rated Flowerdale peaks. And who could resist any map featuring the all-too-apt place name Bad Bog?

How many copies does one household need?  © Ordnance Survey
How many copies does one household need?
© Ordnance Survey

Wait, there's more. Just muscling over the southern horizon, the hulking beasties of Torridon. Beinn Dearg and the best bits of Alligin burst into frame. You get the Triple Buttress, giving you Scotland's grandest corrie and some of its best climbing; and the pine-fringed beauty of Meall a' Ghiubhais. But conspicuous by their near absence, the full crest of Beinn Eighe, the brooding bulk of Liathach, and the seaside rock paradise at Diabaig. Tug the map's southern edge a few kilometres down and you might have the greatest single sheet in the world - a place you'd never need to leave, imaginatively or even literally. Except, perhaps, to find a supermarket.

We lived in it for a while, and though we've moved a sheet or so east, to a place with shops, it's Landranger 19 that still maps the centre of my mountain world. Almost as gneiss to peruse on paper as it is on the ground, to get lost in for hours before you ever need to do it for real, it's a work of cartographic art.

Want more? Check out these routes on Landranger 19:

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