Wednesday, 24 May 2017

The Great Polish Map of Scotland (aka The Mapa Scotland)

Last week I was in Edinburgh to give a talk at the Edinburgh Earth Observatory seminar series at the University of Edinburgh, so I thought I'd try to see The Great Polish Map of Scotland - also known as the Mapa Scotland - before heading back down south. As you can see below, I did manage to go, but I am not quite tall enough to get a good view of it, so I have embedded a video below to give you a proper view of what it's like. I've also posted photos of the very informative signs that have been put up, in addition to a few more views. It's still being renovated so perhaps I didn't visit at the best of times but I'm really glad I got to see it - it's said to be the world's biggest topographical map.

The Great Polish Map of Scotland is located in Eddleston in the Scottish Borders, about 45 minutes south of Edinburgh. When I went on a Saturday morning with an old friend the roads were pretty quiet but it's definitely reachable in under an hour either way. You can see the location in the map below.

Just a short drive and you're there

The Map is actually in the grounds of Barony Castle Hotel, and when we went we parked up in the hotel car park. Above the front door of the hotel you'll see a very ominous message - "Prepare to Meet Thy God" - but since I've not got to the bottom of that yet, I'll leave it there for now and just show you what the Map looks like in the photos below.

Yes, welcome to our hotel!

You go round to the left side of the hotel and then follow the signs to Maczek's Map, as you can see from the next two images. Then it's through the gate and across the bridge over Dean Burn (in case you didn't know, in Scotland and some other parts of the UK we tend to call a stream a 'burn').

I think that's Maczek rather than MacZek

Almost there - you can see the bridge here too

Okay, once you're at the Map you'll see nice new green railings surrounding it. I'm reliably informed by Addy Pope - great Scottish adventurer, ESRI boffin and local person - that you used to be able to walk all over the map but given the new fence and ongoing restoration I thought that might now be frowned upon, so I stayed on the right site of the fence. I'm going to be a bit controversial now on two points. First, I was a little disappointed. Not by the map, but by the fact that I couldn't get a better view of it. I'm close to 2 metres tall but that's not enough even when you're on top of the newly constructed viewing platform. That brings me to the second point. I really wish the viewing platform was higher. These are kind of unfair things to say given the excellent restoration work going on but I do hope someone reads this and gives them tons of money to build a 50m high viewing tower. That would be amazing. Planning permission might be an issue.

This makes a big difference - I just wish it was higher
A couple of views of the map now follow. The first was taken from the viewing platform and the second from the west side of the map. At this point I should probably say that it's not technically The Great Polish Map of Scotland in the sense that Orkney and Shetland are missing. I'm from the north of Scotland so I notice these things... I can understand the omission though - what is there now took years to build.

This was as high as I could get my camera

Extra points if you recognise where this is
One of the great things about the Map is the information signs all the way round that give you the history of the map. I've taken photos of all of them so hopefully you can click the images to read the text but I've also done a few zoomed-in ones, just in case.

Inspired, of course, by a 1958 map of Belgium

I didn't know about this

A close up from the image above

A few images of construction

How the map was made - closer view above

Scotland and Poland have many connections - see above

As you can see, North Uist remains under cover (Uist = "you-ist")
I wasn't really complaining about the viewing platform itself - it's a great addition and allows you to get a nice overview of the Map - but I do think it would be a much better experience if the tower could be higher. I'm sure everyone thinks that and it's such an obvious, annoying thing to say. Anyway, I took this image to show how it was funded.

Lottery funding for the viewing platform

And that's it. I am very glad I went, but it would have been better if a) it wasn't raining - though this is always a risk in Scotland and b) I could fly. In that respect, I think the best views of this are to be had by the few drone videos on YouTube, one of which is posted above. Finally, despite the ominous sign at the entrance of the hotel, I can confirm that they actually serve a very good cup of tea and there wasn't even a hint of death. In fact, the staff were most welcoming.

Do widzenia (for now).