Finding Your Way

Modern Britain is not short of hazardous places – like motorways, landfill sites, and army shooting ranges. This is why Great Routes are so important – they offer pilgrims safe passage, guiding them on the best path via holy places toward a wonderful destination.

But even if you are following a Great Route, it is usually not enough to rely on way-marking on the ground. Little discs on wooden poles every few hundred metres are easily missed, and a footpath can be quickly confused with a well-used animal track. So navigation – taking responsibility for knowing where you are and which way to go – is absolutely vital if you are not to end up down a badger set or cul-de-sac.

So to find your way on foot through this pilgrims’ land of Britain, you need a map.

Digital Mapping

The future – and present – of British pilgrimage mapping is digital. That is because most people in the UK carry a smartphone, and most smartphones contain a GPS chip. And such a phone, most likely yours, can download an app to store maps offline, making your phone into a map that tells you where you are! Imagine how pilgrims of the past dreamed of such a thing – it is Harry Potterishly good! And because the GPS chip works separately to the other parts of the phone, you don’t need mobile or data signal, and GPS still works fine almost everywhere – except caves, deep valleys, and certain churches.

The only peril is power – watch the battery, as constantly checking your location is pretty draining. Best practice is to carry an external battery pack, and to turn your ‘cellular data’ setting off, because you don’t need 3G/4G. Or Wi-Fi. Or Bluetooth. Even if you turn it onto Airplane Mode the GPS still works. And if you do run out of power, head for the pub or nearest church spire.

Some folks worry that smartphone mapping removes the freedom of pilgrim navigation, the sense of being able to roam innocently and get lost when needed. But we claim the very opposite. Knowing you can always find the path lets you roam off it with greater freedom. You can get lost in the woods, always knowing you can find your way back.

Download an App

There are a number of Apps offering Offline navigation. The simplest of all is called Guru Maps Pro. You can download it for Apple iOS and Google Android – HERE. It costs a few pounds, but is incredible value.

For Apple iOS on iPhones

1. Go to the iTunes App Store and search for ‘Guru Maps Pro’. Install the App. You pay £3.99 for the Pro version which allows you to import a GPX route. There are no other hidden costs.

2. Open the Guru Maps Pro App. It will ask to access your location. Click ‘Only While Using the App’, to save battery.

3. Then it will ask you to allow Notifications. Click ‘Don’t Allow’, to save battery.

4. Then you will be asked if you want to download England (or Wales or Scotland). Click ‘Download’.

5. Nothing will seem to be downloading; however, if you zoom in to the map (by pinching and spreading with two fingers) the download progress will show, as below.

6. You then have stored offline full maps for the entire country, which you can use anytime, anywhere.

7. If you want to download Scotland or Wales, just move the map to those countries, and zoom in with your two fingers and then it will ask if you want to download. Tap the blue square.

How to load a GPX route from the BPT website

1. Go to a Great Route page. Tap the ‘Click to Download GPX file for your Digital Map App’ button in image below.

2. You will be directed to our website’s ‘Download Routes’ page.

3. You need to fill in the form.

4. Then once you have clicked the button ‘Click to Receive GPX file…’, go to your phone’s email browser, and open the email from ‘British Pilgrimage’ and click on one of the files.

5. On the following screen, click the tray icon in top right corner.

6. If you clicked ‘More’ in Step 5, click the ‘Copy to Guru Maps’ icon. (Please go straight to Step 7 if you clicked ‘Open in “Guru Maps”‘ in Step 5).

7.  Once you have been taken to the app ‘Guru Maps’, tap the folded-out map icon in top right hand corner.

8. Your route will now be shown on the app!

For Google Android on Android Smartphones

1. Go to the Google Play Store and search for ‘Guru Maps Pro’. Install the App. The Pro version, which you need to import routes, costs £2.29. There are no hidden costs that follow.

2. Open the Guru Maps Pro App. Tap ‘Skip’ on the screen below. 

3. Guru will ask you to allow it to access your location. Click ‘Allow’.

4. Then it asks you to download the offline map for the country you are in.  Click ‘Yes’.


5. Nothing will seem to be downloading; however, if you zoom in to the map (by pinching and spreading with two fingers) the download progress will show, as below.

6. You now have maps for the entire country, stored offline, to use whenever and wherever you like.

7. If you want to download other countries, just move the map to those countries, then zoom in.

For downloading the GPX file, follow steps 1-5 in the iPhone guide displayed above. Then follow these next steps.

  1. Guru Maps Pro will open and will ask you to allow it to access the GPX file from your device. Click ‘Allow’.

2. A page like this should appear. Tap the folder titled here ‘Untitled Collection’, or whatever displays instead.

3. Click the button that says ‘Abbey Trail’ below, or whatever is the equivalent.

4. Click the folded-map icon in top right.

5. You are good to go…

Paper Maps

The most-recently traditional way to navigate is using paper sheet maps, produced by Ordnance Survey (OS). These are simply excellent maps. Buying (or borrowing) them, pondering them, and learning to use them is a worthwhile journey of its own. Maps are artworks, ink on wood-pulp, giving you an eagle’s view of the land. A compass helps a lot too. If you want to maintain this paper tradition of maps, get reading – practice is essential. There are various navigation courses available, but nothing beats trying and getting lost.

To use paper maps, you will need all the individual maps required for the route you are following. In the 1:50,000 scale – the pink ‘Landranger’ – each map costs £8. This scale is good enough to walk with, but has limitations – no marking of field margins, no marking of holy wells and springs, and no marking of the smaller paths. But in their favour, each Landranger map covers a wide area, so for a long route you will carry considerably fewer maps.


1:50,000 – Ordnance Survey data © Crown copyright and database right 2015

The 1:25,000 scale maps are twice as good! They show holy wells and springs, as well as field margins. These orange ‘Explorer’ maps cover a smaller area, so you need to carry more, or find new ones more frequently. But their information is much clearer and more detailed. Each map costs around £9. OS updates these maps yearly, to take into account new roads, diverted footpaths and closed pubs. So it is always worth getting the newest maps possible. Don’t rely on charity shop ones from the 1970s.


1:25,000 – Ordnance Survey data © Crown copyright and database right 2015

Using paper maps to navigate the pilgrimage routes described on this website is a manual task – you will have to copy them out by hand. Even if a pilgrim route is already marked on the OS map, it is always a good exercise to go over the whole thing slowly. Look carefully at the route markings on this website, and copy them in soft pencil onto your own paper maps. We have provided clear and accurate routes on the OS 1:50,000 scale, and also on Google satellite maps.

Using paper maps allows you to get a sense of the landscape in a very wide context. But be careful – if it rains, the details will get soggy – and if it’s windy, you’ll certainly experience interference. You’ll find a plastic map protector a crucial addition…

Mix and Match

You may like to use computer AND paper mapping – a good compromise – by subscribing to Ordnance Survey’s OS MAPS website and app. At £19.99 per year, this allows you to browse the latest 1:25 and 1:50 maps (and larger scales too) for all of Britain. You can search for locations, and draw and edit your own routes. Also, you can import the GPX files from this website, then print out the routes in A4 pages. This could save lots of money, and prevent you from carrying maps for places you aren’t going to. You could also potentially laminate each A4 printout using office equipment, to make them wind and water proof.

Even if you wish to carry full paper maps, having access to OS Maps Online will allow you to go over the GPX routes provided by this website visualised on the newest 1:25,000 maps. This will give you a greater understanding of the route you will be walking. Familiarising yourself with the route before you walk it means you can worry less about navigation and engage more with the land and holy places you encounter.