Sunday, March 14, 2010

Google Street View

As usual, I'm probably the last to hear about this but if you haven't yet, Google Street View has been rolled out to the West Highlands and Islands.

If you thought Bing aerial photography was good, then Street View really is the dog's knob. But be warned it's very Not Safe For Work because you can waste seriously large amounts of time browsing on it.

For anyone not aware of this, go to Google Maps. Type in the name of your place of interest (or navigate to it on the map) and zoom in a bit until you can see roads. Note the little orange man at the top of the scale bar to the left of the map. Click and drag him to where you want to go. If there is Street View coverage (and I haven't found anywhere in Scotland yet that doesn't have it along a public road, be it ever so remote), the roads with coverage will be highlighted blue and then in a few seconds, you'll be looking at a view along the road where you dropped the orange man.

My tip for navigating along a road is to use the mouse to drop the white disc as far away as it will go - about to the next passing place, usually - and double click and you'll be taken to that point. (Don't double click if the disc turns into a square though - you'll see what I mean when you try it.) You can navigate ahead (or back) with the up and down arrows on the keyboard (not the ones in the number pad) but that takes you at a rather slow pace. Using the mouse click method described above takes you at about walking speed. Use the right left arrow keys to rotate the view clock- or anti-clockwise.

So, as it was the Isle of Jura blog which drew this to my attention, I took myself off to Craighouse first, a place I haven't been for 15 years.

I was struck by the similarity between this and the same view almost 200 years earlier as recorded by the water colourist William Daniell who circumnavigated Britain in 1814.

That's exactly the same building, pier and bridge. And although Daniell has exaggerated vertically a bit, that's the north-most of the Paps of Jura, Beinn Shiantaidh, visible in both views. 

Today, I spent a lot of time "virtually" on Raasay where I encountered this remarkably suburban scene:-

The reason is that Raasay is home to, of all things, a mining village. Outside toilets and coalsheds in sight of the Cuillins - who'd have thought. This is a subject I will return to in a future post.

One thing that does strike me having "virtually" wandered round quite a lot of Raasay this afternoon is that the Highland Council bright blue wheelie-bins are incredibly ugly. Would a different colour - like khaki or dark brown - not blend into the landscape a bit more? Not so much here amongst the white cottages of Inverarish but they're a real blot on the landscape at the road ends of Balachuirn and Balmeanach. It seems a bit rich of Highland Council to restrict planning permission to "aesthetically sensitive" buildings when they roll out blue wheelie bins. Philistines!

Another good tip for browsing on Street View is to have the Ordnance Survey current 1:25,000 scale map open in another window courtesy of Streetmap. And the 19th century OS 6 inch map (1:10,560) available via National Libraries of Scotland open in a third window. And, of course, Bing aerial photography and/or Google Earth on the go too (GE in the case of the south end of Raasay).

The fact that all this material is available free, I find just incredible. It's great for someone like me who loves Scotland but doesn't live there to be able to explore it in this way. I wonder where I'll go tomorrow - Rodel? Salen? Arinagour? Lochboisdale? Laxford Bridge? All of them - I'm like a kid in a sweetie shop!


  1. I also spent far too much time wandering round, Oban, Tobermory and Lochaline sadly they must have missed the ferry to Iona! Perhaps now we can persuade those nice people at Google to put cameras on Calmacs fleet and we can have Seaview.

  2. Funny that, I have just written a blog post about using Google Streetview for research purposes for modelling.

    It's an incredible development by Google and I'm pleased that I can sit in Kent and virtually take a trip around the Highlands!

  3. Ken, I see that there's no coverage on the Small Isles either so obviously we don't get to see the islands where you're not allowed to take your car on the ferry.

    Funnily enough, the notion of "Coastview" occurred to me as well. Mounting the perpetually snapping camera on a RIB cruising round every cove of the coast. Maybe one day.

    Tom - yes it must help you immensely researching your layout.

  4. I too am addicted to the new streetview. The view from Elgol pier is sublime. I am curious how ever picture is under near perfect skys, we all know that it not always the case!

  5. (Found here accidentally via another bit of Google!)

    It's fascinating to wander about, without a doubt. There are a few disappointments - on Jura the two main ones are the string of "no longer available" blacked-out views by the stores (why would someone complain about those, I wonder?) and not quite making it to the end of the public road in the north. Nevertheless, it's remarkable by any standards.

    As for perfect skies, newhey: that may hold there, but it doesn't elsewhere in the UK. Try some of the roads near Snow Hill station in Birmingham: it's both wet and almost dark!