UK Topo Data for Garmin GPS

After the release last year of Magellan MapSend Topo UK for Magellan GPS’s, I was keeping my fingers crossed that Garmin would strike a similar deal and produce a similar product as part of their Mapsource line for my eTrex Vista. Taking a look at the selection of countries with Topo coverage that their third-party programme had provided it was starting to get quite odd that there was no UK coverage.

For those people not aware of the situation in the UK, the government does have an agency that has a complete digital topographic map of the UK, the Ordnance Survey. Aside from the well known printed maps in 1:25000 and 1:50000 they do a variety of digital maps well above the level of detail needed for a consumer GPS. The big problem, as always comes down to money. Whilst there are quite a few products such as MemoryMap Navigator that are based on some of their raster data (although note the lack of complete 1:25000 coverage), the vector data needed for handheld GPS units is only available at a significant premium. Whereas Garmin can obtain the relevant data for the United States and Canada the official response to enquires about a UK Topo product from Garmin is that the licensing cost is too much. For a UK resident this is particularly annoying as we’ve already paid for the mapping to be done by way of our taxes!

Anyway, I recently came across talk of a page by the Scottish Mountaineering Club which was hosting a set of UK contour maps produced from the Shuttle Radar Topography Mission by another disgruntled Garmin GPS owner who wanted topographic maps for his GPS. The solution is a somewhat manual process, but the result is a contour map for the whole of the UK and Ireland that can be loaded into a Garmin GPS. I downloaded the maps this afternoon, and within about 20 minutes had them all loaded into my copy of Mapsource.

Of course there is a certain irony to the fact that whilst through my taxes I’ve paid for the Ordnance Survey to keep an accurate digital map of the UK, but I’m having to load data paid for by the US taxpayer, but available for free onto my GPS!!!

Update: It looks like the link is now long since dead. Having said that, in the intervening time, Garmin have now produced an official topographic mapping for the UK.

Update 2: There is an update of this post with the much wider selection of options now available for Garmin GPS owners here.

8 thoughts on “UK Topo Data for Garmin GPS”

  1. What you paid for once-upon-a-time from the OS was sold of “to the highest bidder” by Thatcher in th ’80s.
    As for TOPO maps on a handheld gps; screens will have to get bigger, much better definition, and less fragile to be useful. Have you used a TOPO Magellan? It’s dire.

  2. I found the Scottish mountaineering stuff and loaded it a few weeks ago and its adequate for my ramblings. I passed the info onto the internet site I used for my garmin and other mapping software and they said they would try and promote the Scottish site with links from theirs. Maybe passing the word around about a free service will help prevent frustrations for other garmin owners. – And motivate someone to get the already paid for information into the public domain where it belongs and at an affordable cost

  3. Hi i just bought a garmin 60c sx it realy good but i live in Northern Ireland and cant get a topograph map for it, i hike, mountain bike and a bit of cross country running well the scottish club map work for my garmin and does it cover N.Ireland? if it doesnt where do i look ive looked every where but to no avail.


  4. Having spent most of my working life at Ordnance Survey, now retired, I sympathise with many of the comments on availability and costs of OS data. It should be understood however that although the original mapping was funded by the taxpayer, that has not been the case for many years. It is true that Margaret Thatcher initiated the commercialisation of OS, and OS has been particularly succesful in that process -it has not had tax funding in any form for many years. While it is a frustration for occasional users such as many of us to pay what are considered exorbitant prices, the current remit is unlikely to be changed by the chancellor who is increasingly desparate to raise cash, not give it away!

  5. Hello, I was wondering if you could give me an e-mail address from which I can download UK Topo Maps for my Garmin GPS handheld. I would very much like to avoid paying for them.

    Many thanks


  6. I know this is a little late (new to the GPS world and only just found this website) but I'd like to ask a clarification…

    Going back to Daves comment.
    If OS was sold off and receives no government funding then what does the Chancellor have to do with setting the retail price of a private companies' product?
    I would posit that OS is doing exactly what BT is now doing. We as taxpayers paid for OSs setup and equipping just as we paid for BTs infrastructure. Both have been sold off. Both are now using what we paid for and 'selling' it back to us and making huge profits in the process.
    The ONLY reason the price of digital UK map data is so high is because no one else has it in such accuracy and they can therefore charge what they like.. "take it or leave it".
    BTs prices have been cut drastically in the last 7-8 years as more competition arrives. There is no competition for OS.

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