Map reading skills - beginner's guides

Map reading made easy! For beginners to advanced, adults or teenagers, find all you need to make map reading easy

We've collected some of our top map reading resources all in one place to get you started in this vital outdoor skill. Too easy for you? Expand your knowledge with Map reading - advanced guides.

Ordnance Survey Map reading for beginners free download PDF

Map reading for beginners - download

Grab this downloadable PDF copy of the 'Map Reading for Beginners' leaflet

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Beginner's guide to understanding map contour lines

Beginner's guide to understanding map contour lines

Discover how contour lines on maps are used to understand the terrain around you, including gradients of hills, valleys and steepness of climbs.

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A beginners guide to understanding map scales

A beginner's guide to understanding map scales

Have you ever wondered what a map scale is, or the difference between OS Landranger and Explorer maps? Our quick guide to understanding map scales will help!

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A beginners guide to grid references

A beginner's guide to grid references

OS maps are covered in a series of blue grid lines that are used to pinpoint exact locations anywhere on a map. Learn what these are called and how to find a grid reference.

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A beginners guide to the compass

A beginner's guide to the compass

Rather than just showing north, modern compasses have many features to assist in planning and navigation. Find out what compass you need.

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Beginners guide to using a compass

Beginner's guide to using a compass

Navigating using a map and a compass is a fantastic life skill and complements any GPS device. Here’s a step-by-step guide on how to use compass bearings.

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A beginner's guide to measuring distance on a map

A beginner's guide to measuring distance on a map

Measuring distance is a key map reading tool to see how far you've travelled or how far your planned route takes you. Learn how to easily measure distance with our quick and simple guide.

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Learn how to read a map with video guides from Steve Backshall

Choosing the right map

Choosing the right map

Understanding map symbols

Understanding map symbols

Understanding contour lines

Understanding contour lines

How to take a 4-figure grid reference

How to take a 4-figure grid reference

How to take a 6-figure grid reference

How to take a 6-figure grid reference

Features of a compass

Features of a compass

How to take a compass bearing

How to take a compass bearing

Understanding magnetic north

Understanding magnetic north

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