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Posted by on in Boots N Paddles stuff
Discovery Channel Glenfiddich Channel 2012If you've not heard of it before, The Glenfiddich Challenge is an exciting adventure in which 6 Dutch contestants are taken to the Scottish Highlands for a multi-day outdoor challenge.  The Dutch Discovery Channel produces the resulting television programme and we were lucky enough to get involved with the challenge this year.  We organised a number of challenges for them, starting near the iconic Eilean Donan Castle and finishing up with a challenging paddle on the River Spey.

With climbing, abseiling, whitewater sledging, raft-building, trekking, camping, mountain biking (on Cairngorm Mountain in the snow!) and whitewater canoeing, this was an adrenalin packed event for the 6 guys involved - 2 brothers, 2 old friends and 2 ex-marines.

Although some of the footage is in Dutch and you may not understand what's being said by the contestants (facial expressions do tell a story though!), the 4 trailers that are now available on You Tube are brilliant to watch and you really get a taste of Scotland's landscape at its atmospheric best.

It was also a great event to work on too with so many events in one weekend - the kind of challenge we like to get our teeth into!

Check out the Youtube trailers here
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Posted by on in Boots N Paddles stuff

The wonderful Aigas GorgeWe're very pleased to annouce our expedition dates for the 2013 season.

On offer in 2013 are our 3-day descent of the River Spey from Aviemore to Spey, a 5-day expedition on the Great Glen Canoe Trail and we also have dates for our popular Early Morning Wildlife Canoe Trip in the wonderful Aigas Gorge (you may have seen it recently on BBC's Autumnwatch).

We can also offer an amazing week Exploring Highland Rivers by canoe, exploring a different venue every day, seeing the some of the best paddling locations in Scotland.  We need a minimum of 4 people to run this trip and if you're interested, do get in touch.

Although we have these dates in our calendar, if you have preferred dates, please let us know and we'll see what we can do for you.

If you want to find out more please don't hesitate to contact us.

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Posted by on in Boots N Paddles stuff
We've just confirmed our place at next year's exciting Outdoor Pursuits, Scotland event.  It'll be held at the Corn Exchange in Edinburgh on the 20th & 21st April 2013.

Outdoor Pursuits Scotland is the perfect place to find out about new activities, find new gear and have a fun day out at the same time.  It's the kind of event that you can go along to just for a nosey, but as soon as you arrive, you just keeping thinking, I want to try that, I want to do that, I want one of those, will my wife let me get one of those?!!

There is something for everyone at the show, from kids and families, to the more serious outdoor enthusiast.

We'll let you know more about the whats, wheres and whens at a later date.
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Posted by on in Environment
The WDCS fundraising team are welcomed at Spey Bay



Our latest newsletter is now available for all to read.  With news about expansion into the Scottish Central Belt, a 5* award for TreeZone, Off-road Segways, and a canoe expedition with the Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society, there's lots to read about.  Hope you enjoy!!

Read our newsletter here and please do feel free to share it with your friends.
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Posted by on in Environment
Boots N Paddles recently ran a 3-day expedition for the Whale & Dolphin Conservation Society as a way of raising some much needed funds for this worthy charity. One of our guides Ross Boardman was joined by Alice, Mary, Ioan and Pete (the fab fundraisers) and Pam from our office.

Pam pulled together a few thoughts for our blog - hope you enjoy reading them and hope you might also be inspired to join a trip in the future, helping the WDCS raise some much-needed funds in the process.

Day 1: Broomhill – Ballindalloch

There was a strong sense of anticipation from the group as we prepared our canoes at the river-side.  Ross ran through a few elementary things before we put into the water.  As soon as we were on the river our paddling tuition began in earnest, with Ross introducing some basic strokes and we were off.  We practised coming from the current into an eddy all morning, ferry gliding, edging, bow rudders and draw strokes as we enjoyed the beautiful countryside with the stunning Cairngorms in the background.  Everyone was up for learning and the group gelled really well in their paddling pairs, with Pete and Ioan in one canoe and Alice and Mary in another.  By the end of the first day we had tackled our first rapids confidently and we were travelling at good speed down the Spey.

A comfortable end to a busy day in our Teepee, on the banks of the River Spey



Our first night was wild camping near Ballindalloch, although the group agreed we were doing it in some considerable style with our teepee, wood burning stove, gourmet cooking by our supremely capable guide Ross, and a glass of wine to wash it all down.  Still, we felt that we were really getting back to nature and sharing all the chores of setting up camp really helped pull the group together.

Wildlife – We saw herons, buzzards, wagtails, flocks of ducks, lots and lots of jumping salmon and lots of fishermen too.  We were lucky enough to see a large salmon being landed by a very pleased fisherman- what a beauty she was!

Day 2: Ballindalloch – Craigellachie

The boys take on the Washing Machine



We were fresh from a good night’s sleep and just as well, as the infamous 'Washing Machine' was around the next corner.  Ross and I went down first and then I positioned myself on the river bank to get some good shots whilst Ross waited at the bottom in case anyone got into difficulties.  Our happy and by now competent paddlers, used skill and nerve to easily negotiate what can be a very scary rapids section and we got some great action shots.  Many more rapids including the Knockando Rapids were negotiated successfully under Ross’s guidance and everyone was having a ball.  Having stocked up at the shops in Aberlour we camped in an area at Craigellachie with a toilet and tap plus a pub within walking distance – heaven!

Round the wood burning stove later everyone described their highlights so far which included:

Pete – Loved surfing the standing waves, the scenic and beautiful landscape, the teepee and stove!

Ioan – Surfing behind the rock above Carron, learning how to paddle properly in 4 -5 basic strokes.

Alice – washing her hair in the river, enjoyed learning ferry gliding, loved being in a group of adults only (no kids!) who are all happy to help and be involved. Over 2-3 days you actually improve your technique too.

Mary – Absolutely loved the Washing Machine and Knockando Rapids.  Trip has given her the bug to go out and do loads more paddling.

Day 3: Craigellachie – Spey Bay

The team are welcomed at the finish line



We made a comfortable start at 10.00am and paddled this lovely stretch of the river with a good mix of rapids and river.  We came across a massive standing wave which the boys decided to go straight through, but within seconds their canoe was waterlogged and they were swimming in the river! They hung on to their paddles and Pete swam ashore whilst Ioan swam to our canoe – a great example of a moving water rescue and the boys loved it!  We had a headwind as we did the last few miles and were greeted by a welcoming party, a banner, coffee and cakes at the WDCS Visitor Centre- a brilliant way to finish the trip.

The group reach Spey Bay



The WDCS hope to run similar fund-raising expeditions in the future, so keep an eye on their website, or follow them on Facebook for further information and your chance to help make a difference while having some fun on the Spey!

Well done guys.

More photos available here
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Posted by on in Boots N Paddles stuff
After waiting for what has seemed like an eternity, the latest addition to our list of exciting activities is almost ready to go.  From the end of August, when water levels are most likely to be suitable, you'll be able to book an adrenalin-fuelled Whitewater Sledging session with us.

Sledges on Whitewater??? Yes.

The most basic, hands on, ‘face in the water’ style of white water rafting. All you need is your swimsuit and an absolutely positive can-do attitude. We will outfit you with a whitewater sledge, plus flippers, wet suit and helmet.  It’s one of the most exciting water sports around and calls for a fair degree of nerve and a solid grasp on the sledge.  It’s still relatively new to the UK but is already well established elsewhere in Europe, the US and the home of extreme adventure, New Zealand.

We were lucky enough to have some of the guys from Serious Fun River Sledging in New Zealand, pop in to say hello, check out our proposed venues and give us some top tips. Thanks guys!

This activity is definitely aimed for the more adventurous.  You must be able to swim and be confident in fast moving water.  If you want somemore information please get in touch.
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Posted by on in Boots N Paddles stuff
Canoe sailing brings a new dimension to canoeing and is FUN!



Having recently tried canoe sailing for the first time in May this year, I enjoyed it so much that I've just gone out and bought one.

It's not perhaps something that many 'new-to-canoeing' paddlers might consider doing, but it doesn't have to be difficult and can make the journey along the likes of Loch Ness a breeze, if you'll pardon the pun.  Although my wife questions the apparently endless new bits of kit that arrive through my door I think this one will appeal to her.  Although a fan of canoeing, there are occasions when she is perhaps, keen to move a bit more quickly on long open stretches!  This is where a sail can come in very handy and keep your partner happy!

There are all sorts of shapes and sizes of sails and ways in which you can fix them to a single canoe or a bunch of boats rafted up together.

At its most basic you could use an umbrella or something like a big orange survival bag that you might buy in an outdoor shop (using a couple of poles or spare paddles to help make a sail).  You could also purchase a basic canoe sail like the one sold by Endless River, which again, just needs a couple of paddles or poles to create a sail, but with the advantage of being able to see where you're going!

After that, they get bigger and fancier and more expensive, but all doing the same basic job. On our recent guided Great Glen Canoe Expedition, our instructor Ade, rigged up a sail having rafted the canoes together.  It made for an exciting journey along Loch Lochy's length and a well earned rest for the paddlers.

The Canoe & Kayak UK magazine recently published an article on sailing and it provides some great information if you're thinking about having a go or indeed, if you just want to find out more about it.  Check this link out

If you want to try before you buy, we hire out canoe sails as part of our boat hire and outfitting service

I hope this has inspired you to go out and find out some more about canoe sailing and please do share this with friends on Twitter and Facebook or Google+.
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Posted by on in Environment
If you're into the outdoors and need to know when to avoid the wind or indeed if you're actively looking for windy conditions, then this website could be what you're looking for.  XCWeather.co.uk provides up to date weather conditions, but in particular has a great overview of current and forecasted wind conditions.

Wind tends to go hand in hand with surfing too, whether that's on a board, windsurfer or in a kayak.  The Magic Seaweed website provides some very detailed info about when the next swell will hit our shores.

Finally, as a great all round weather forecasting website you musn't forget the good old Met office. Lots and lots of handy info for anyone that plans to head out for an adventure whether, on land or sea, or even I suppose in the air!

If you found this useful please share it on Facebook or Twitter!
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Posted by on in Boots N Paddles stuff
Gorge Walking on the Rothiemurchus Estate



It's that time of year again! School holidays are almost upon us here in Scotland with the rest of the country following not far behind.

If you've got plans to head for the Scottish Highlands you really should think about visiting the Cairngorms National Park.  It's got so much to offer that you really can't go wrong.  Where do you start looking for things to do when you're there?  Well hopefully these ideas might entice you:

Activities on the Rothiemurchus Estate, Aviemore

Archery - we offer target archery taster sessions suitable for 8+ years old

Canoeing on the lovely Loch an Eilein - a relaxing canoe taster session at the UK's favourite place for a picnic.

Gorge Walking at Achlean Gorge - a fantastic introduction to the joys of gorge walking and suitable for families (6+ years old)

Gorge Swimming at the Bridge of Brown - a bit more excitment involved here with a pile of fun crammed into a tight space.  Minimum 14 years old and a sense of adventure required.



Target archery



Segways
- our newest activity and not to be missed.  If you've not tried Segways before, you really must have a go.  Minimum height 110cm.

You can find out more and book all these activities at the Rothiemurchus Estate website

TreeZone Aerial Adventure Course: Zip wires, balance beams, hanging platforms, tight-ropes, scramble nets, white knuckle bridges and gap jumps are set in the ancient Caledonian Pines of the Cairngorm Mountains. TreeZone is an unforgettable high ropes activity for adventurers at least 7 years old and 1.1m tall.  Find out more and book direct at the TreeZone website

Other activities:

We can also provide activities for groups visiting the area and tailor the sessions to suit the group.  You might want to paddle down a stretch of the awesome River Spey or want to do one of the activities above, just with your mates or in a different location.  If you want to chat about the options, call us on 0845 612 5567 or email us

Canoe or kayak hire and shuttle service: we also offer a comprehensive boat hire and outfitting service with flexible shuttle service that can take you and the equipment just about anywhere.

More information about the Cairngorms: Visit Cairngorms

If you found this useful, please share it with your friends and family on Facebook and Twitter.
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Posted by on in Boots N Paddles stuff
Sea-toSea24 Great Glen Challenge Our very own Mike (Dunthorne) has just volunteered to step-in as a last minute replacement for a rather onerous challenge.  Mike will join Chris Ostler and attempt to paddle the full 96km of the Great Glen Canoe Trail, non-stop within 24 hours!!  Why would any sane person do this when we normally recommend to clients that they take 4 or 5 days to do the same journey?

Well, Mike and Chris are attempting to raise money for the Highland Hospice and start the challenge on 27th June.  Chris's brother Duncan, who was due to attempt the challenge has had to pull out due to ill-health, so Mike has stepped up to help out, knowing only too well what he's letting himself in for.

The Sea-to-Sea 24 challenge will raise much needed funds to support the amazing work that the Highland Hospice does and you can support the hospice by sponsoring Mike and Chris at www.justgiving.com/sea-to-sea24.  They are attempting to raise £2375, or £25 per kilometre.  Please help if you can.

With only 2 weeks to go, Mike is currently out training in case you're wondering!
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Posted by on in Useful information
This is for all you parents out there with wee ones growing into big ones that are just desperate to get on a bike. I'm a parent of 5-year old, into everything, twins who just love what the outdoors has to offer.

While researching how to get them started on a bike we decided on the balance bike route (small bike without pedals) and certainly don't regret our decision. They quickly mastered the balance bikes and were happily whizzing along before they reached 4 years old, however, what next?

A friend of mine suggested Islabikes as the way to go and, having not heard of them before I looked into them a bit more.  On the face of it they look good but are expensive.  Also, the brand name isn't perhaps as well known as the likes of the Specialized or Ridgeback equivalents either, so I had no prior knowledge of anyone having owned one.  After a bit of head scratching we did decide to go for the Islabike Cnoc14 for our dynamic duo.

From the day of arrival it was clear that the bikes were quality products. Well built, well finished and sensibly designed for small people. When the day came to introduce the bikes to the kids at 4 and a bit years old, twin number one was off pedalling immediately (generally confident in most things).  It took twin two a couple of days more (less confident at 'going for it') but again, had very little problem adapting to the Islabike.

The balance bikes certainly had a part to play in the speedy transition to the pedal bikes, but the Cnoc14 definitely eases the process. The kids can use the brakes easily (once they realise that they need to use them once in a while!).  They appear comfortable to sit on and are robust, as they need to be for the inevitable bumps that junior riders dish out on their bikes. We've also had them round the Green Trail at Glentress a few times so know they can cope with that type of trail as well.

Importantly, from kids' point of view the bikes look good as well, but from a parent's point of view there are no unecessary add-ons that either detract from the usability of the bike, add to the weight or just waste space and money.

I'm an Islabike convert and the kids are now riding Cnoc16s at 5 years old. One final reason to go for an Islabike is the resale value. We were gobsmacked to receive between 75 and 80% of the orignal cost back when selling through E-Bay.  The bikes were in good condition but were a year and a half old.

There are obviously others out there that think like me.

If you found this useful please share it with your friends on Facebook or Twitter.
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Posted by on in Useful information
Our latest newsletter for Summer 2012 is now available.

In this issue:
- The Segways have arrived
- Whale & Dolphin Conservation Society take on the Spey
- Fiona Outdoors joins us on the Great Glen
- Boots N Paddles join forces with the Kingsmills Hotel
- New TreeZone website
- Luxury (Scottish Hamper) winner announced
- Free Prize Draw

Click here to find out more or subscribe to our mailing list
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Posted by on in Useful information
Know the Walking and Stalking code before you head for the Scottish hills



With ever increasing numbers of people heading for the hills and mountains of Scotland to enjoy what the landscape has to offer, it's important to remember that walkers aren't the only people that make use of the land.  For many it provides a livelihood and an integral part of that, may involve deer management.

The deer stalking season runs from the 1st July through to the 20th October and if you are planning to head for the hills then it would be a good idea to try and find out where stalking is likely to be taking place. You don't want to go and wandering too close to a herd of deer that are being stalked.  Not helpful if you're the local gamekeeper!

You perhaps don't agree with the culling of deer, but the reality is, it is an essential part of managing the Scottish landscape.  Deer stalking is necessary to manage deer sustainably and is also an important source of income in rural areas. Regular culling ensures that there is enough grazing for the herd and other animals, and that fragile upland habitats are not damaged. The busiest time of year for deer managers is usually the stag stalking season  The popularity of this time for walkers and climbers to also head to the hills, has led to the demand for both the Hillphones and Heading for the Scottish hills services.

If you don't use either of the above services, then perhaps you could contact the local landowner instead.

Find out more about Hillwalking and stalking at the Scottish Outdoor Access website.

Please do share this with fellow hill-users. the more  people that know, the better.
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Posted by on in Environment
Unsightly litter on the beach



As the nice weather is (hopefully) approaching and more of us will be out on the water I thought it would be a good opportunity to share some information about reporting any litter/ pollution related problems we encounter while out paddling in canoes or kayaks.

It's annoying that we bear the brunt of a minority of other people's actions, but as regular beach and river users we are often best placed to report issues.

For pollution and debris in the water or washed up on beaches contact the Scottish Environment Protection Agency.
http://www.sepa.org.uk/about_us/contacting_sepa.aspx

For problems with general litter, public facilities, fly-tipping or dog mess contact the local council responsible for the area.

A list of contact details can be found here: http://www.cosla.gov.uk/scottish-local-government

For rubbish and pollution around harbours contact the local harbour authority.

Contact British Waterways for any problems with the canals.

Pleae share this with friends to spread the word and keep our countryside clean.
Tagged in: litter pollution SEPA
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Posted by on in Useful information
Cameron McNeishOne of the country’s leading outdoors writers and broadcasters revealed he will be working with the BBC this year to film a project that will follow a route from Scotland’s border to its north-west extremity.

Cameron McNeish will start at Kirk Yetholm in the Borders and wind his way to Cape Wrath for the series.

And with the nation’s independence high on the political agenda, Scotland’s First Minister Alex Salmond has given his blessing to the route, which is being dubbed the Scottish National Trail.

Mr McNeish, former editor of TGO magazine, said the idea came during a trip to Nepal having heard about the Great Himalayan Trail, which runs the length of Nepal.

The idea is not to create new paths, but to use existing ones linked to create the trail from the South to the North-West.

He said: “Basically, we’re using the existing footpaths that are there. We start off on St Cuthbert’s Way, do a couple of days on the Southern Upland Way, move on to some Tweed Trails, go into Edinburgh, then walk beside canals to the West Coast, then the Rob Roy Way. We’re kind of linking them all together.

He also said there was a move to have a definitive route for the section north of Fort  William.

“There have been a few meetings in Scotland about the Cape Wrath Trail,” he said. “It’s a fabulous, fabulous walk from Fort William to the most north-westerly part of Scotland.

“At the moment there are two or three separate ways. There was a meeting with Scottish Natural Heritage and they’re quite keen to see one distinct route, so that will probably happen.”

Keep an eye on the BBC programme schedule for this series - it should be worth watching out for.
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Posted by on in Environment
What should you do if you find a fossil?


Ok, so unless you're talking about some of our staff, we can't claim to be experts on fossils.  However, that's not to say that we, as outdoorsy-type people won't come across them while out and about.  You might come across them while doing a bit of rock climbing at the Cummingstown Sea Cliffs or perhaps doing a bit of weaselling at Duntelchaig.


However, what would you do if you came across one though?  Should you take a hammer to it and try and take it home with you or do you report it to someone?


The Scottish Fossil Code provides advice on best practice in the collection, identification, conservation and storage of fossil specimens found in Scotland. The Code also aims to enhance public interest in fossil heritage, promote this resource for scientific, educational and recreational purposes and help conserve the fossil heritage of Scotland.

The following website link from the Scottish Outdoor Access Code should help anwser some of your questions, and is worth keeping in mind should you be lucky enough to bump into an ancient fossil while out exploring (not our staff though).

Scottish Fossil Code

I hope you found this useful. Share it with your friends on Facebook or Twitter if you thought so.
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Posted by on in Useful information
The Munro Hamper from Scottish Hampers



We're very excited to be able to offer subscribers of our Keeping in Touch newsletter the opportunity to win a luxury food hamper in our next free prize draw.

We will be giving away a rather tasty looking Scottish Hampers' Munro Hamper at our next prize draw in May. In it you'll find tasty treats including: Thompson's Scottish Full Roast Coffee; Luscombe's Organic Sicilian Lemonade; Bloc Mint Creams; Island Bakery Organics Shortbread; Nevis Bakery Madeira Cake; Thomson's Scottish Vanilla Macaroon; and Claire Macdonald Strawberry Jam.....my tummy is rumbling!

To be in with a chance of winning this tasty treat, all we ask is that you continue to subscribe to our newsletter, or if you've not already done so subscribe now.

Good luck!

Competition rules: Please note that the luxury hamper is not exchangeable for cash. The hamper is worth £50 including delivery charges. The draw will be made on Friday 4th May 2012 and the winner will be contacted shortly thereafter. Boots N Paddles reserve the right to publish the name of the winner in the subsequent newsletter, on our Facebook and Twitter pages and on the Boots N Paddles' website.

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Posted by on in Boots N Paddles stuff
Archery at Rothiemurchus



It's that time of year again and Easter is nearly upon us. Add to that some unusually good Spring weather and you really need to have a good reason not to get outdoors to play.  We've got some great activities on this coming weekend at the Rothiemurchus Estate and over the Easter School holidays.

Gorge Walking at Achlean



We have Gorge Walking (6 year olds and over), Gorge Swimming at the Bridge of Brown for the more adventurous (14 years and over), Archery (8 years and over), Canoeing on the lovely Loch an Eilein (5 years and over) and don't forget the awesome TreeZone (7 years and over).  Treezone can be booked direct online using the link provided and all others should be booked via the Rothiemurchus Estate on 01479 812345 or online.

Hope you have a great Easter!
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Posted by on in Environment
It is anticipated that 2012 could be the year of the tick.

Recent news reveals that the ticks are coming… and this year they will be more prominent than ever in Scotland. This is not good news for walkers because of the potential risk of contracting Lyme's Disease, but there are many precautions that can be taken to avoid a bad dose of this flu-like illness.

What are ticks?


Ticks are tiny bugs that thrive in bracken. This bracken has spread alarmingly after a dry winter and an EU ban on the herbicide Asulam. Ramblers are particularly prone to tick bites, which are the main cause of Lyme disease, and can prove fatal if left untreated.

What can you do to help yourself?


Get yourself a tick remover to remove the nasty little biters. Make sure you check yourself over at the end of the day to check that a tick, or ticks!! have not attached themselves to you for a feed.



The best way to avoid ticks is to wear long-sleeved shirts and trousers, but sadly our canine friends can’t follow the same guidelines.

This is what you are trying to avoid....

This is what you're trying to avoid... a fully fed tick



With the much anticipated milder weather on the way, it pays to take a little time to check your arms and legs after any outings into the countryside (walking, biking, canoeing, etc), and if your dog seems in any discomfort then check its coat for any small lumps and bumps.

Although they love bracken, home for ticks is often long grass, which most dogs enjoy charging through as well so a tick remover should be on every dog lover’s list of must-have items.

Remember, if the ticks don't get you, the fearsome midgies might!

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Posted by on in Useful information
Customise and order a map to suit your requirements



If you've ever done a walk that spans more than one map sheet then the faff will be familiar; and it's usually raining and windy when it comes to the swap, too. More and more people are using handheld mapping devices but when all else fails you may still need a map.

To get around this the Ordnance Survey (OS) has just launched a range of customisable maps.

The new Explorer (1:25000) – Custom Made and Landranger (1:50000) – Custom Made maps allow anyone to customise their own map online, centering the sheet on any location they like. You can also choose your own title and cover image from a selection of photos. The custom-made version will be the same quality and detail as these benchmark paper maps, an improvement on OS Select, the previous made to measure offering from the OS.

A new production process means that the maps are now printed on the same paper as standard off-the-shelf OS sheets, making them thinner, tougher and easier to fold - a practical option for outdoor enthusiasts for the first time.

Yes you could print your own sheets at home from mapping software, but given the price of ink these days it's unlikely to save you much money. Custom Made maps cost £16.99, though there might be some introductory offers.

'We carried out some research and found that our mapping is the first choice for walking - except sometimes the walks people are planning can involve needing two or more maps - there are four covering the Lake District for example' says Gemma Nelson of the OS. She could equally have added Torridon (three Landrangers), the Rough Bounds of Knoydart (two) or the Howgills (three, for one wee hill group). 'The new range matches the existing look and feel of our popular OS Landranger Maps and OS Explorer Maps series. They're printed on the same paper and the map covers echo the existing products - so will match those already on people's shelves. People can also choose from a wider range of cover images when customising their map.'

Custom made maps are available online www.shop.ordnancesurveyleisure.co.uk

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