What you see is what you get

Six of the best road maps.

With Britain's landscape in a constant state of flux, keeping up with change is a demanding task. The AA, as map publishers, employs a team of people whose job is to travel around the country and monitor all alterations, major and minor: new roads, widened carriageways, even different pub names. About 3,000 revisions are made every year to existing AA titles. Michelin, similarly, has a group of cartographers on the move - as have other map publishers.

It certainly makes sense, therefore, to buy a new atlas about once every two years. But which one to choose? Does detail impinge on clarity, are size and scale more important than quick readability? You can spend as little as pounds 1.99 and buy a pocket-size Michelin Mini-Atlas, or blow pounds 20 on a plushly-bound hardback AA atlas that is worthy of a place on a library shelf rather than the backseat of a car. Between these extremes lies a multitude of map-books. We selected six of the most widely available - in garages and bookshops - and have assessed them here (shown in 100 per cent scale), in ascending order of price.

The Sun Road Atlas Britain 1995, pounds 3.99. This is a cheap print run (slightly out of register, too) of a familiar Bartholomew atlas, itself available in hardback for pounds l2.99.

Format: Stapled, 15 x 11in, 3 miles to the inch. Green tint all over, green primary routes, blue motorways.

Ease of use: Easy to follow, pages large enough to avoid excessive turning over, presentation could be brighter, page overlaps clearly marked.

Detail: Minor road shapes are rather approximate, but tourist attractions well marked, and shows heights and woodland. No key.

Extra features: Detailed central London map, but limited area. Detailed route planning maps.

Verdict: Basic atlas at a bargain price. Flimsy feel with thin paper, but a good buy if you feel you can live with the Sun logo in your car.

A-Z Great Britain Road Atlas 1995, pounds 6.95. An atlas from the publishers of the familiar city street maps, also available in hardback at pounds 9.95.

Format: Stapled, 151/2 x 101/2in, 4 miles to the inch. Very colourful, green primary routes, blue motorways.

Ease of use: Very small type for minor place names, populated areas are visually congested, dual carriageway intersections accurately depicted (the only atlas to do this), very clear overlaps, each page covers a large area.

Detail: Excellent, with a multitude of villages and places of interest, heights and woodland, good key.

Extra features: First-class London, Birmingham and Manchester approach maps, town, port, airport and Channel tunnel terminal plans, sparse route planner.

Verdict: Good value with lots of information, but rather hard to read in mid-journey.

Ordnance Survey Motoring Atlas 1995, pounds 6.99. Published by the people who actually do the land surveys in the first place.

Format: Squareback, 151/2 x 11in, 3 miles to the inch. Colour scheme is green and yellow dual carriageways, green primaries, crimson secondaries, blue motorways.

Ease of use: Clear type, good compromise between scale and page size, clear overlaps, rather heavy to handle.

Detail: Good on antiquities and rivers, cryptic on tourist attractions - gives symbols instead of names. Heights and woodland marked, good key.

Extra features: Has a reasonably good route planner with more city approach maps than the A-Z but less detail; includes town and Channel tunnel terminal plans, detailed central London map and also has a local radio frequency guide.

Verdict: Has an air of authority, but ultimately contains less useful detail than the A-Z publication.

Philip's 1995 Road Atlas Britain, pounds 8.99. A weighty tome that looks comprehensive.

Format: Spiral-bound, 15 x 11in, 3 miles to the inch. Thorough, with red and yellow primary routes (curiously), blue motorways.

Ease of use: Airy enough layout for easy assimilation mid-journey. Much the same page size/scale relationship as OS altas, clear, well-spaced typeface, pages fold flat and turn easily, heavy to handle, liable to get damaged if roughly treated. Overlaps not clear.

Detail: Excellent for tourist information but road numbers have no A and B prefixes. Heights and woodland shown, sparse key.

Extra features: Two sizes of route-planning maps, including parts of Ireland, weather forecast telephone map, city approach and town plans, Channel tunnel terminal maps.

Verdict: Copious detail and a large scale, plus peripheral features. Let down by lurid colours and invisible page overlaps.

Michelin Motoring Atlas Great Britain and Ireland 1995, pounds 9.95. Part of the Europe-wide Michelin mapping system.

Format: Spiral-bound, 12 x 9in, 4.75 miles to the inch. Looks a bit sparse and unconvincing, red and yellow motorways, red and white dual carriageways, red A-roads whether primary routes or not.

Ease of use: Small scale means that small page size is not a problem, pages lie flat but weight and construction could lead to damage long-term. Overlaps clear but intrusive. A snag is that many minor roads simply are not marked, yet there is no clear logic as to which ones qualify for inclusion.

Detail: Cryptic symbols abound. Heights and woodland make an appearance. Good key - and it needs one.

Extra features: Some town plans and city approach maps, complete set of Irish maps, Channel tunnel terminal, ferry routes map.

Verdict: Fails as a road atlas because it does not show enough roads.

AA Motorists Atlas Britain 1995, pounds 9.99. Also in hardback, pounds l7.99 or pounds 20, and in a larger page format but same scale, and minus town plans, from Granada Service Areas at pounds 5.99.

Format: Spiral-bound, 12 x 9in, 4 miles to the inch. Pleasant colours, dense information but not too difficult to follow thanks to clear type, green primary routes, blue motorways. Minor roads crisp and clear.

Ease of use: Very easy to follow despite smallish scale, because information presented in co-ordinated way. Clear page overlap, compact size makes for easy handling and pages lie flat, but durability problems of spiral binding apply here, too. Good key.

Details: Not best on place-names, but good for tourist information. National Parks and woodland are marked, but not heights.

Extra features: Reasonable route planner, restricted-access motorway junction guide, road sign chart, map of Ireland, central London street plan, excellent city plans.

Verdict: Best-looking and easiest to read.

News
Young Winstone: His ‘tough-guy’ image is a misconception
people
Sport
Adnan Januzaj and Gareth Bale
footballManchester United set to loan out Januzaj to make room for Bale - if a move for the Welshman firms up
Arts and Entertainment
Ellie Levenson’s The Election book demystifies politics for children
bookNew children's book primes the next generation for politics
News
Outspoken: Alexander Fury, John Rentoul, Ellen E Jones and Katy Guest
newsFrom the Scottish referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions
PROMOTED VIDEO
News
i100
Sport
Yaya Sanogo, Mats Hummels, Troy Deeney and Adnan Januzaj
footballMost Premier League sides are after a striker, but here's a full run down of the ins and outs that could happen over the next month
Arts and Entertainment
L to R: Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner), Captain America (Chris Evans) & Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) in Avengers Assemble
film
News
Nigel Farage celebrates with a pint after early local election results in the Hoy and Helmet pub in South Benfleet in Essex
peopleHe has shaped British politics 'for good or ill'
Arts and Entertainment
Pharrell Williams' “Happy” was the most searched-for song lyric of 2014
musicThe power of song never greater, according to our internet searches
Sport
Tim Sherwood raises his hand after the 1-0 victory over Stoke
footballFormer Tottenham boss leads list of candidates to replace Neil Warnock
Arts and Entertainment
Sink the Pink's 2013 New Year's Eve party
musicFour of Britain's top DJs give their verdict on how to party into 2015
Voices
Strictly Come Dancing was watched by 6.9m viewers
voicesIt has been hard to form generally accepted cultural standards since the middle of the 19th century – and the disintegration is only going to accelerate, says DJ Taylor
Arts and Entertainment
Roffey says: 'All of us carry shame and taboo around about our sexuality. But I was determined not to let shame stop me writing my memoir.'
books
News
i100
News
Caplan says of Jacobs: 'She is a very collaborative director, and gives actors a lot of freedom. She makes things happen.'
people
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Selby Jennings: VP/SVP Credit Quant- NY- Investment Bank

    Not specified: Selby Jennings: VP/SVP Credit Quant Top tier investment bank i...

    Ashdown Group: Senior Marketing Executive- City of London, Old Street

    £40000 - £43000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Senior Marketing Executiv...

    Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager

    £40000 - £43000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: An international organisa...

    Ashdown Group: Internal Recruiter -Rugby, Warwickshire

    £25000 - £30000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Internal Recruiter -Rugby, Warwicksh...

    Day In a Page

    War with Isis: The West needs more than a White Knight

    The West needs more than a White Knight

    Despite billions spent on weapons, the US has not been able to counter Isis's gruesome tactics, says Patrick Cockburn
    Return to Helmand: Private Davey Graham recalls the day he was shot by the Taliban

    'The day I was shot by the Taliban'

    Private Davey Graham was shot five times during an ambush in 2007 - it was the first, controversial photograph to show the dangers our soldiers faced in Helmand province
    Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

    Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

    Many flyers are failing to claim compensation to which they are entitled, a new survey has found
    The stories that defined 2014: From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions

    The stories that defined 2014

    From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions
    Stoke-on-Trent becomes first British city to be classified as 'disaster resilient' by the United Nations

    Disaster looming? Now you know where to head...

    Which British city has become the first to be awarded special 'resilience' status by the UN?
    Finally, a diet that works: Californian pastor's wildly popular Daniel Plan has seen his congregation greatly reduced

    Finally, a diet that works

    Californian pastor's wildly popular Daniel Plan has seen his congregation greatly reduced
    Say it with... lyrics: The power of song was never greater, according to our internet searches

    Say it with... lyrics

    The power of song was never greater, according to our internet searches
    Professor Danielle George: On a mission to bring back the art of 'thinkering'

    The joys of 'thinkering'

    Professor Danielle George on why we have to nurture tomorrow's scientists today
    Monique Roffey: The author on father figures, the nation's narcissism and New Year reflections

    Monique Roffey interview

    The author on father figures, the nation's narcissism and New Year reflections
    Introducing my anti-heroes of 2014

    Introducing my anti-heroes of 2014

    Their outrageousness and originality makes the world a bit more interesting, says Ellen E Jones
    DJ Taylor: Good taste? It's all a matter of timing...

    Good taste? It's all a matter of timing...

    It has been hard to form generally accepted cultural standards since the middle of the 19th century – and the disintegration is only going to accelerate, says DJ Taylor
    Olivia Jacobs & Ben Caplan: 'Ben thought the play was called 'Christian Love'. It was 'Christie in Love' - about a necrophiliac serial killer'

    How we met

    Olivia Jacobs and Ben Caplan
    Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's breakfasts will revitalise you in time for the New Year

    Bill Granger's healthy breakfasts

    Our chef's healthy recipes are perfect if you've overindulged during the festive season
    Transfer guide: From Arsenal to West Ham - what does your club need in the January transfer window?

    Who does your club need in the transfer window?

    Most Premier League sides are after a striker, but here's a full run down of the ins and outs that could happen over the next month
    The Last Word: From aliens at FA to yak’s milk in the Tour, here’s to 2015

    Michael Calvin's Last Word

    From aliens at FA to yak’s milk in the Tour, here’s to 2015