Ordnance Survey shows public footpaths on all of its mapping in order to educate people about their right to access any given area of land. If you are planning to explore the countryside on foot then you should be aware of where you can and cannot venture legally.
Although many people think that access is determined by us at Ordnance Survey, footpaths are established by the owner who in turn informs us. Local authorities are required to maintain a ‘definitive map’ showing all public footpaths. However, if a footpath doesn’t appear on that map it doesn’t necessarily mean it isn’t a public path.
Normally, the right to access a footpath only extends to walkers, however, it is not illegal to cycle or ride a horse on such a path. It is only unlawful if there is a traffic order or a bylaw in place which states that it is illegal to cycle or horse ride. Landowners can take action against people misusing public footpaths on their land.
Most of the land in Great Britain is owned by someone, be it the local authorities or private landowners but most of the countryside can be accessed safely and legally our help. Public footpaths are easy to identify when you know what to look for.
The diagram below is a map legend taken from Ordnance Survey 1: 25 000 scale mapping (OS Explorer). It shows how we represent a footpath on our popular walking map.
Ordnance Survey public footpaths on OS getamap
OS getamap gives you access to maps of the whole of England, Scotland and Wales. The site allows you to plot routes directly onto maps, print them out, email them to your friends, download them to your Garmin GPS, and much more. Another great advantage to OS getamap is that you can locate all the rights of way defined by us. Footpath maps, such as the 1: 25 000 scale OS Explorer display public footpaths and other public rights of way. You can also see an aerial view of the same location. This will help you to find out exactly where a footpath begins and ends.
The image below shows a public footpath marked with an X.
To obtain this information the user simply has to:
- enter a search location in the search box
- select the correct location from the list provided
- expand the map screen (only available to subscribers), and;
- use the zoom facility to get to the right scale (this will be apparent when public footpaths appear on the map).
To find out where public footpaths exist throughout England, Scotland* and Wales, visit OS getamap and enter a place name or postcode in the search box. You do not need to register or subscribe to search for Ordnance Survey public footpaths; however you will need to subscribe to see the full screen and get full A4 map prints for free.
* The law in Scotland differs to England and Wales. Here, The Land Reform (Scotland) Act 2003 gives the public the right to be on any land for recreational, educational and certain other purposes and to cross the land if exercised responsibly.