Reviewed: A-Z Adventure Series Maps

Published 2 July 2014

A to Z Adventure Atlas

When it comes to maps, it’s hard to beat those produced by the Ordnance Survey. I adore them for their beautiful clarity. So easy on the eye, and easy to read. In our household map collection there are maps from Swiss, French, Icelandic and Canadian suppliers, and they all fail to meet up to the might of the OS. The fonts are usually too fussy, the colour scheme harsh on the eyes. No, when it comes to maps, the OS is king.

For the walker though, a map – even those by the Ordnance Survey – can be a right royal pain in the backside. Map sheets may give you an enormous area of coverage when you’re out on the trail, however they can be fiddly. Anyone who has ever tried changing a map page in the middle of a howling gale or in pouring rain can testify to the difficulties. I got very lost on my first day of the Cumbria Way because I couldn’t find any shelter from the downpour in order to change to the right section of my map without it getting soaked.

But what if someone had combined the wonders of OS mapping into an easy to flick through book format? And then complimented that by adding in an index at the back telling you where you can find each village and/or fell on the map?

Enter the A-Z Adventure Series of maps which combine the ease of use of an A-Z town map with the wonders of the OS map.

The series was launched in 2012, and covers select areas in the UK of interest to outdoors types. Each book uses the Ordnance Survey Explorer mapping at the 1:25,000 scale, which gives the best detail. The books cover popular walking routes and areas, such as the Lake District, Snowdonia and the Coast to Coast.

The Lakes area is split over two books; one for the north, and one for the south, and I put them both of them to use in the summer of 2013. For the first time, I’d headed to the Lakes without my trusty OL4, OL5, OL6 and OL7 maps and relied entirely on the A-Z maps to guide me round the fell tops.

As you’d expect, the mapping can’t be faulted. It is from the Ordnance Survey after all. The only change the A-Z team have done is overlay a grid on top of the map, so you can find things from the Index. Finding a fell is so much easier when you can quickly find out that it’s on page 14, in grid D2. At the edge of the page, arrows point you to the page number where the map continues, and naturally there is an overlap on both pages.

Each book is also the same size as a folded OS map. You could argue that there are more useful sizes that they could have picked, however choosing this size has an enormous advantage in that they’ll fit pretty much any normal map case. Open the book and simply slide it in to the case, and hey presto, you’ve got your map sorted. And if it’s raining, no worries. Just slide your hand in to the map case and quickly change page. It’s that simple.

The paper in the books is a good thickness glossy sort that should withstand minor water attacks too, whilst the cover is sturdy enough to cope with any major battering. The book’s also thinner than the equivalent OS map – the two Lakes books take up a lot less space than the four OS maps they replace, which is great for packing.

There are two types of Adventure maps. First is one based on popular walking areas, such as Snowdonia, Exmoor and, of course, the Lakes. The second kind follows popular long distance walking routes. The latter are akin to strip maps, with a good area shown on each side of the trail. There’s no specific highlighting of the trail itself, which in some cases would be desirable in areas where there are many trails.

As for price, well each book is similar in cost to a standard OS map, with the benefit of offering a wider coverage area.

Other than that, there are few downsides, the most noticeable one being that the A-Z series only covers the main tourist areas of the Britain. That’s inevitable. There just isn’t going to be a mass market for A-Z tourist maps of inner Birmingham, or the west of Manchester. Surprisingly though, there’s very few for Scotland. Not even the West Highland Way gets one, which given the popularity of the route, is rather surprising.

Still, when there is an edition that covers where you want to go, the A-Z Adventure series of maps are like some sort of dream team combination; the joy of the Ordnance Survey coupled with the ease of use of a book format and the A-Z’s fantastic indexing. They’re well worth trying out on your next walk.

You can find a full list of the titles in the A-Z Adventure Series on the A-Z website.

The items reviewed here were purchased by the author – well, okay, then. If we must be brutally honest, the author’s other half. It’s sad that we have to say this, but there’s so many ‘sponsored’ posts on the internet these days pretending to be real reviews.



3 December 2015 at 11:25 am

Could you tell me what paper maps to buy that cover the entire SUW.

Andrew Bowden (Rambling Man editor)

3 December 2015 at 10:13 pm

Hello Patrice – all the maps for the Southern Upland Way are listed on my ‘SUW Planning a Walk‘ page.

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