Scotways Historic Footpaths Project Help Page

Welcome to the National Library of Scotland and Scotways' Historic Footpath project. Please read this page before starting to trace any footpaths from our Footpath application.

Updated instructions - 14 April. Please read the sections below with a pink background with updates to the Help page relating to categorising footpaths.

This page contains the follow information:


GIF showing process of tracing a footpath

This collaborative project aims to trace the routes of footpaths on Ordnance Survey maps from a century ago. The point locations of over 13,000 "F.P." and "B.R." footpath and bridleway / Bridle Road abbreviations have already been identified on the OS 6-inch to the mile maps from around 1900 covering Scotland, but the routes of these footpaths or bridleways on the ground have not yet been traced. Identifying footpaths and making them available as an open layer, will help facilitate Scotways’ work in researching the backgrounds of footpaths today and safeguarding them as rights of way. Read more about the OS Six-inch to the mile maps.

Project Launch Help Video

Watch our project launch video on the Footpath Application. It covers getting started with an overview of the application, how to add footpaths, and tips for interpeting the footpath start and end points. It finishes up with useful related additional information and a brief Question and Answer dialogue.

Footpath Application

This application has been designed to work on a standard desktop or tablet, but not on a mobile phone. It has been tested successful using Chrome, Edge and Firefox browsers on Windows and MacOS, but unforuntely it does not work using Safari. We have received reports that it also works fine using Ubuntu OS and the Vivaldi browser. The following sections explain more about our Footpath application:

Screenshot showing Footpath Application interface

NLS Reader Login

To use the application, you will need to join the library. This is free and there is also a quick online registration form. Read further details on how to register.

Footpath Tracing Panel

The footpath tracing panel with the symbol Arrow symbol to move Foothpath Panel to the upper right can be moved at any time by clicking and dragging on the box. This box will be used to turn the drawing mode 'On' and 'Off'. For more information, please read the next section on getting started.

Getting Started - Tracing a Footpath

On our footpath application, you will notice over 13,000 green circles which mark the 'F.P.' (footpath) or B.R. (bridleway / Bridle Road) abbreviations recorded in GB1900. In the first ten days of this project, footpaths were traced by nearly all of these green dots, whilst it became clear that there were other footpaths that were useful to trace without 'F.P. / B.R.' abbreviations (and green dots). The viewer has therefore been tweaked to allow footpaths to be categorised into 'Labelled' and 'Unlaballed', and we would be very grateful if you could trace Unlabelled footpaths that have generally not been traced so far, categorising these as Unlabelled.

We would like to trace the routes of these footpaths. Please read the instructions below, to begin adding footpath.

  1. Footpath with F.P. abbreviation and green circle
    To start tracing a footpath, please locate a green circle (representing a 'F.P.' or 'B.R.' abbreviation) and make sure you are zoomed into level 15 or higher. The footpath usually appears as a dashed line, or a dashed double-line for wider tracks. If tracing a dashed double-line, draw between the lines.
  2. Trace new footpath slider set to 'On'

    On the Footpath Tracing Panel, slide the ‘Trace new footpath’ slider from ‘Off’ to ‘On’ to enter drawing mode.

    (Note: Please be aware that after completing a footpath, this slider returns to ‘Off’. To trace another footpath, you will have to turn the ‘Trace new footpath’ back to ‘On’. Once ‘On’, and in drawing mode, your cursor will change to reveal a blue dot).
  3. Tracing footpath

    Identify, and click at the start of the route to begin tracing the footpath. Continue to click along the route, clicking each time the footpath changes direction and double clicking to finish.

    If you click close to your previous point, the application will register this as a double-click and end the line segment, regardless of the amount of time that has passed. To avoid this, if you wish to add a point close to the previous point, zoom in (you can zoom in and out whilst drawing a path using the wheel on your mouse) to increase the distance on screen between the points.

    You can also hover your mouse over your previously traced path and click and drag any point along it to adjust its position. It is also possible to hold the [Alt] key down and click on any point along your traced path to delete that specific point.

    You can also rotate the map to make the footpaths horizontal by holding the [Alt] and [Shift] keys down, and dragging with your cursor, or pinching with two fingers on a touch screen. To return to the default rotation, click on the blue arrow to the upper right or refresh the page.

    (Tip: Please read our Principles for Interpreting the Start and End Point of a Footpath).

  4. Footpath tracing panel displaying path categories

    Updated instructions - 14 April. We would like you to also tick the relevant checkbox to confirm which category the path falls into:

    • Labelled footpaths. These are those footpaths that are by an F.P. or B.R. symbol (indicating a Footpath or a Bridle Road).
    • Unlabelled footpaths. These are those footpaths that are not by an F.P. or B.R. symbol (indicating a Footpath or a Bridle Road).

    In general, you should try to categorise the footpath section that runs up to a particular landscape feature, such as a wall or fence. (Please read our Principles for Interpreting the Start and End Point of a Footpath). If there is a clear green circle symbol indicating an F.P. or B.R. abbreviation relating to this section, please categorise it as 'Labelled'. If there is no clear green circle symbol indicating an F.P. or B.R. abbreviation, please categorise it as 'Unlabelled'.

  5. Footpath tracing panel displaying green 'Save to database button' and red 'Cancel/remove path button'

    Once finished, double check your route. To save the footpath, click on the green ‘Save to Database’ button. Your footpath will be saved to our database and a blue dotted line will appear on the map in its place.

    If you change your mind and do not wish to enter the footpath you drew, please select the red ‘Cancel/Remove Path’ button from the Footpath Tracing Panel. Similarly, if you make a mistake, simply double click to finish and select this red ‘Cancel/Remove Path’ button.

Deleting your own footpaths
Footpath tracing panel displaying selected path details with categories

If you make a mistake and save a footpath in error, then you can delete it. First, select it in the map interface by clicking on the dashed blue line of the footpath. Once selected, the footpath displays in orange on the map, and details about the footpath are displayed in the 'Footpath Tracing Panel'. These details include the NLS User ID of user who added it, the Path ID number and the date of its addition to the database. To delete the footpath, click on the red Delete selected Path? button. It is only possible to delete the footpaths that you have traced yourself, not to delete other users' footpaths.

Changing your own footpath categories

If you would like to change the category that your footpath has been assigned to, you can do this in a similar way. (For more information on footpath categories, see Updated instructions - 14 April above). First, select the footpath in the map interface by clicking on the dashed blue line of the footpath. Once selected, the footpath displays in orange on the map, and details about the footpath are displayed in the 'Footpath Tracing Panel'. You can then check the other category that your footpath relates to and then click on the green Update to database button. It is only possible to do this for footpaths that you have traced yourself.

Principles for Interpreting the Start and End Point of a Footpath

Depending on different people’s interpretations, the start and end points of a footpath displayed on the map may vary. To minimise this, we have put together a list of useful principles to follow when tracing routes and to help distinguish a footpath’s start or end point. Before getting started, we suggest everyone reads these principles.

Legal disclaimer

We fully recognise that tracing footpaths on historic maps does not imply that they are rights of way today. These historic Ordnance Survey maps all carry a disclaimer in their margins that the representation of footpaths or bridleways on these maps do not provide conclusive evidence of a right of way. In addition, over the last century, there have been many changes to rights of way on the ground. The aim of this project is to record evidence of tracks or paths from maps in around 1900, not to assert any particular legal rights around these routes.

Additional Information


To look up abbreviations on the OS maps, please consult our Guide to abbreviations – an alphabetical list of standard OS abbreviations.

Characteristic Sheet

To view a legend of symbols for features on the OS six-inch mapping, consult our Characteristics Sheet.

Dynamic URL

The URL in the address bar changes dynamically to show your particular map view (including the zoom level, latitude and longitude). You may save or bookmark this URL at any time if you wish to return to the same specific place.

Dynamic URL of particular map view displayed in browser address bar

Error reporting

When you click on the 'Save to database' button on the Footpath Tracing Panel, your traced footpath is sent to the National Library of Scotland’s web servers, saved, and the updated line feature should then be displayed back in the application. In the event of network or web server problems, the OS maps and line features may not appear, and the 'Save to database' function may fail. In the first instance, we would suggest completely refreshing the application by reloading the URL in your browser address bar and try to carry on tracing footpaths. However, if the maps or traced footpaths still fail to appear, or the application fails to work as you are expecting, please stop using it, e-mail us at and we will aim to fix it as soon as possible.

Footpaths Total
Traced footpaths totals counter

The number of footpaths traced is shown in the upper right with 13,167 F.P. / B.R. abbrevaitions also displayed on the map as green circles.

Path ID
Path ID, date and NLS User ID in Footpath Tracing Panel when path is selected

When saved into the database, paths are allocated a sequential numeric Path ID number. If you click on any path to select it, this Path ID number is displayed in the 'Footpath Tracing Panel', along with the NLS User ID of user who added it, and the date of its addition to the database.

You can search on this Path ID number to find a particular path by entering the number in the Search by Path ID box in the header at the right-hand side and pressing Enter/Return. If this Path ID exists, the map will zoom to this path and select it.

Scotways Historic Footpaths Forum

For the Scotways Historic Footpaths Project, we have also set up a forum for participants to ask others for help and share thoughts on the likes of a footpaths start or end point.

To join the forum, you will have to sign-up with your email address and then wait for approval. Once approved you will be able to login, view and add posts to the forum.

(Tip: When posting about a particular footpath remember to add the Dynamic URL and Path ID (see Additional Information above on how to find these), so that others can see the footpath you are referring to and offer advice).

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If you have any other questions, please contact us at