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UK & Ireland Explorer

Technical Detail

The Data

Collins Bartholomew’s UK & Ireland Explorer is a seamless digital map database of the United Kingdom and Ireland which consists of 35 feature classes, each containing either polygon, line or point geometry types. Designed and maintained by the team behind the prestigious Times Comprehensive Atlas of the World, the accuracy and authority of the content is second to none.

The rich feature coding supports complex GIS applications, where detailed knowledge of a particular location or feature can be found instantly. For example, there are over 36 river classifications and over 37 road classifications providing detailed information.

Administrative boundaries are rigorously checked and verified in order to give an accurate picture of UK and Ireland geography as it stands today.

Accented characters are rendered in ISO 8859-1 Latin-1 format by default.

This product is used in a variety of applications and institutes such as academic research, creation of maps for television broadcast, defence and strategic planning, the production of customised printed and web-based mapping and location-based queries.

Geographic Coverage

The UK & Ireland Explorer vector product covers the following countries: England, Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland, Ireland, and offshore islands such as the Isle of Man and the Channel Islands.

Data Format – Vector

Vector data for ESRI users is supplied as shapefiles. For MapInfo users, data is supplied in either TAB or MID/MIF format. Other formats are available on request.

Coordinate Information

The data is supplied in British National Grid (WKID: 27700) by default. Other coordinate systems are available on request.

Sources and Viewing Scales

The UK & Ireland Explorer vector dataset was originally captured from copyright-free, compiled map sources at 1:250,000 scale, but has been updated using higher resolution sources including satellite imagery, aerial photography, and GPS survey. More recently, it has also used Open Data from the Ordnance Survey and the Land & Property Services (LPS) in Northern Ireland.

Contains Ordnance Survey data © Crown copyright and database right (since 2010))

Contains LPS Intellectual Property © Crown copyright and database right (since 2016).

This information is licensed under the terms of the Open Government Licence (

The optimum scale range used for cartographic output is between 1:150,000 and 1:250,000.

Feature Class Descriptions

Feature ClassGeometryDescription
AdmAPolygonAdministrative areas
AdmA_CntryPolygon“Country” extents
AdmLLineAdministrative boundaries
ContAPolygonHeight bands for hypsometric colouring. Heights are in metres.
ContLLineContours. Heights are in metres.
DistPPointRoad distance markers and numbers
DzoAPolygonDanger zones
FpkAPolygonForest Parks
GaelAPolygonGaeltacht – Predominant Irish-speaking region
GridA_100kPolygon100km grid squares
GridA_10kPolygon10km grid sqaures
GridL_100kLine100km grid outlines
GridL_10kLine10km grid outlines
HtsPPointFeatures with height, e.g. mountain summits
LcoAPolygonLandcover, i.e. areas of woodland and marsh
LnsLLineMiscellaneous line features, e.g. long distance paths
MetAPolygonMetropolitan counties
NpkAPolygonNational parks
NtrAPolygonAreas owner by the National Trust (Great Britain only)
PtsPPointPoints of interest
RdsPPointPoint features associated with roads, e.g. tolls
RfsLLineRailways and ferries
RfsPPointPoints associated with railways or ferries, e.g. tunnels
RpkAPolygonRegional parks
SanAPolygonSand composed areas
ScaAPolygonScenic areas
TwnPPointTowns, coded by status and population
TxtLLineArcs representing curved map text
TxtPPointPoints representing location of map text
UrbAPolygonUrban area extents
WatAPolygonWater features with areal extent, e.g. lake
WatLLineWater features with linear extent, e.g. river
WatPPointWater features with point location, e.g. waterfall

Feature Class Attributes

Feature Class Attributes FieldTypeDescription
ADM?_CODENumberA unique numerical identifier for the 1st order, 2nd order, or 3rd order administrative region that the feature is associated with
ADM?TextThe name of the 1st order, 2nd order, or 3rd order administrative region that the feature is associated with
ALT_NAMETextAlternative name of a feature
ANGLENumberUsed to provide orientation for a cartographic point symbol
CODETextFeature code
CODE_DESCNumberA full textual description of the feature code (CODE)
CNTRY_CODENumberA unique numerical identifier for the country that the feature is associated with
COUNTRYTextCountry that a feature is associated with
E_ROUTETextEuropean road number (E roads) – Ireland only.
GRAPHIC_IDTextA unique identifier for every feature in the data
HEIGHTNumberHeight above sea level, in metres
LINK_IDNumberA unique numerical identifier for a feature’s name
MAPTEXTTextName of feature as it appears on published mapping
NAMETextFull feature name
POPULATIONA settlement’s population
PRIORITYTextUsed for under/overbridges on roads, paths and railways. (L – low, M- medium, H – high)
ROADNOTextRoad number (M, A and B roads).
TAGTextConcatenated field made up of Code and Priority fields.
TEXTCODETextA generalised textual description of the feature code (CODE)
TYPETextSettlement type, e.g. town, village, suburb

Product Update Cycles

The Collins Bartholomew UK & Ireland Explorer dataset is released annually in April.

Quality Standards

Collins Bartholomew takes the greatest of care in assuring the high quality of our data. The data is constantly being updated and revised, with an average of 40,000 name edits each year.

All of our database updates are thoroughly researched by our highly dedicated in-house team of professional cartographers and information researchers.

We also use external experts, specialist organisations, official organisations, agencies, government departments and business offices to assist in the information gathering process.

Policy changes (e.g. international boundary changes, new country depiction, name changes) are informed by external experts. For advice on name forms we look to the PCGN (the UK government’s Permanent Committee on Geographic Names for British Official Use) and BGN (US Board on Geographic Names) plus of course local/country specific information. From this we would make our decision on the ‘de facto’ stance and apply geographical expertise to work out the details.


UK & Ireland Explorer is available as a standalone dataset that you can download and store locally, or it can be accessed via one of our secure web services. Whichever you choose, our licence fees are based on the number of concurrent users with fees staring from £1,495 per annum.