[This article originally appeared on my main weblog, but has been updated several times since.] I’ve been meaning to make this list for a while, as I’ve now run in around 150 areas around the country, in the last 8 or so years. Here are the top 10 UK areas I’ve run on, and the worst one too… Free to add your own choices as comments.
Right: A photo of me, aged 10, climbing in the Trossachs – long before I did any orienteering there! Below: A detail from the Trossachs map.
In reverse order:
10. Ham Hill, SW England
Fast but interesting with some odd statues and a nice view from the monument at the top of this oddly shaped hill.
9. Epping Forest East, SE England
There are several orienteering maps covering Epping Forest and I’ve enjoyed all of them. Epping Forest East in particular is a great area. I ran here in late Autumn, on a cold but sunny day. The forest is just beautiful, with lovely glades, grand old trees, little vegetation, and lots of open sections. It is also a devilishly technical area. I got severely lost when I was here, in a highly, highly confusing bit. Orienteers don’t like getting lost, but they do like maps that have to make them think. The area is all the more amazing considering it’s inside the M25, so it really isn’t far away at all.
8. Bigland, Lake District
A wonderful mix of steep, technical woodlands, large, detailed moorland, and open grassland making it a very spectator friendly area. Bigland is a big area, appropriately enough, and has a bit of everything. Despite a howling blizzard at one point, I really enjoyed my race there.
7. Holyrood Park, SE Scotland
Sure it’s hardly a very technical area, but it is steep, suprisingly big, the views are superb, and best of all it’s right in the heart of beautiful Edinburgh, right beside the new parliament.
6. Roseisle Forest, North Scotland
Superb running in this fast, coastal forest in Moray. The lack of vegetation on the ground means it’s easy to glide through the trees. The northen end is more intricate, the southern end is exceptionally fast. And there’s a lovely beach, stretching for many miles. Gorgeous.
5. Anagach Wood, North Scotland
This is a small but very attractive area, it’s flat with glacial moraines, and there’s a scattering of ancient pine forest mixed in with the newer trees. It has a very Scandinavian feel to it – the only downside is the large number of cold marshes!
4. Archerfield, SE Scotland
This was my first ever area, so this is a nostalga entry really. I ran a yellow and then light-green course the same day, back in 1995. Sadly, these days much of the estate is off-limits, but I’ve been back to the sand-dune bit recently for a ‘Hagasby’-style relay.
3. Burnham Beeches and Egypt Woods, SE England
Wonderful silver birches and beech woodland, flat but not too flat, dry and fast. I was injured when I was there, so had the time to walk around and apprieciate it.
2. Creag Mhic Chailein, West Scotland
I’ve only run here once, in the British Champs in 1996. I remember a very challenging course, but a lovely contrast between rolling, varied moorland, and broken, ancient Caledonian pine forest, with intricate morainne features.
1. Trossachs, Central Scotland
A beautiful area, both physically and technically amongst the toughest in the UK. Extremely steep and intricate, the map is a work of art to look at.
I’ve never actually completed a race here without retiring, despite three attempts, so for that reason it is also one of my worst areas. But it is the number one area I want to return to – it really is worth travelling the length of the country to run here.
And my worst area:
Linn of Tummel, Central Scotland
A lovely place, but I spent an awful 2 hours falling down grassy slopes and then giving up, 50% of the way around the course, only to find about 10 blood-sucking ticks on my legs. Eurgh!