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Appy exploring: The best websites and apps for discovering your local area

Keen to explore your local area more? Workplace Walking Development Officer Sarah Turner recommends 5 top websites and apps for discovering new walking routes in your local area.

Published: 22/10/2020

There’s nothing better than getting outside for a walk, whether it’s to clear your head, stretch your legs or simply enjoy some fresh air. But during the last few months of staying close to home, I found myself treading the same old trails day in and day out, simply because I knew them so well – and that’s when I discovered a range of useful websites and handy mobile apps, which helped me to research, plan and discover some new walking routes around my local area.

Strava Heatmaps

Strava is free mobile phone app which allows users to record a range of different exercises, from cycling to running and walking, even kitesurfing! If you’re a regular participant in the Step Count Challenge, then you’ll know that this year we developed a new website, with a feature which allows participants to link their Strava accounts to their Step Count account. However, you might not have heard about Strava’s global Heatmap, which is a colour-coded map showing routes regularly recorded by Strava users. The brighter the colour of route, the more regularly the route is used. Anyone can access and view Strava’s Heatmap, however if you set up a free Strava account you can view the map in more detail. You can view the map here.


Another handy website which I’ve used to discover and plan walking routes is PlotARoute. Using an online map, you can plot out new walking routes that you’d like to try, or you can explore and download walking routes created by other users. Just zoom in on the area that you’d like to explore, click on “Routes” at the top of the page and then click on “Find a route”. You can also use PlotARoute to explore new running, cycling and horse-riding routes. Find out more here.

Google Maps and Google Streetview

I like to travel by foot when I can, so I’ve been relying on Google Maps to help me find my way from A to B for many years, and it hasn’t let me down yet (although it has sent me on a few interesting routes at times!). If you’re looking to swap a regular short car journey for a walk or cycle instead, Google Maps can help you plan the quickest, safest and most convenient route – and you can even take a virtual look at your route in advance by using Google Streetview.

OS Maps

If you’re feeling a bit more adventurous, OS Maps is a mobile phone app which is great for exploring longer routes both in urban areas and rural spots. Just like PlotARoute, you can use the app to plot a walking route, or download and explore routes created by other users. There’s also a handy “Follow Route” option for when you’re out and about, and the free version of the app allows you to access a map of local greenspaces such as parks, sports fields and playgrounds. OS Maps is free to download in the Google Play store and the Apple store.

Explore the night sky with Stellarium

If you’re feeling really adventurous, why not explore the night sky whilst you’re out and about! So you may not be able to walk amongst the stars just yet, but finding your way around the Universe is easy with free stargazing app Stellarium. Perfect for a cold winter’s night with clear skies and a mug of hot chocolate close by.