Map reading

A map gives information about the terrain, inhabited areas, watercourses, roads and lots more. You have to be able to ‘read’ the map, interpret the symbols in the key (legend) and ‘translate’ it on to the ground.

Valuable Information on maps

  • North on a map is always at the top.
  • Every map has a scale. Most suitable and useful for walkers are 1:25 000, 1:40 000, 1:50 000 or 1:60 000.
  • The smaller the number behind the colon, the more detail is shown on the map.
  • If you take away the last 2 digits, you get the meters of ground represented by each centimetre on the map.
  • Every map has a grid reference system shown as vertical and horizontal lines. With this you can pinpoint every spot on the map.

Map symbols 

On walking maps, marked routes are usually displayed as red lines. Watercourses as blue lines. Green is typically forestry. Always read the key or legend on the side of the map since different map makers can use different symbols for details.

Representation of the shape of the terrain

Contour lines and slight shading represent shape of the ground.  A contour line is a line joining points of equal height above sea level. The closer the lines are spaced, the steeper the ground; the further they are apart, the gentler the slope.