Thursday, 24 November 2016

Armchair Travelling with Google Streetview

Old Town, Edinburgh
Last weekend I was out and about in real life - to Cromford for a short walk along the canal - but the rest of the week I've sat in my armchair (well, technically, at my pc) and travelled much further with the help of Google Streetview.

To my mind, Streetview is one of the most exciting things on the web - far better than cute cats! I've always found maps fascinating but actually being able to see that map come to life, to walk down a street, climb a mountain or stroll by the sea is wonderful.

St Davids
When Streetview first launched in the UK, I used it to look at our house and road, have a peep at friends' houses maybe, or check out directions, but I soon expanded my horizons to include places I'd been, or was thinking of going, on holiday (It's excellent for checking if your hotel really does have a sea-view). So I spent a lot of time wandering round, say Edinburgh or St David's, places I'd already visited. At first it was only possible to move around on actual roads but now in some areas, you can follow footpaths, catch a boat trip or maybe just check out an out-of-the-way viewpoint through a 360 degree 'photo-sphere' image. Through a combination of these I've dropped in on the summits of Ben Nevis and Snowdon, not quite managed to climb Everest but did walk up a Himalayan valley to a glacier, ambled along a coastal path carved into the cliffs in Italy's Cinque Terre region, taken a gondola trip through Venice, a boat up Loch Ness ... as you can tell, I spend quite a lot of time 'travelling' in the virtual world.
North Norfolk marshes

My most recent 'adventures' have been inspired by books I've read.
I've explored the North Norfolk coast, setting for Elly Griffiths's forensic crime series 'starring' Ruth Galloway, and then, while reading Anne Enright's The Green Road, explored the Burren National Park, Eire, with a slight side-track when I discovered the 'Father Ted Parochial House' marked on the map.

My most exciting 'trip' though was trying to follow the journey described in Dan Simmon's The Terror following an ill-fated expedition searching for the North-West passage through the Canadian Arctic. - so I had to go and investigate! The weather was a lot sunnier than I expected with hardly any snow and ice (Google does seem to send photographers out only in summer, though) and the landscape far more varied - I found deep river gorges, waterfalls, chains of islands forming lagoons along the coast, as well as the flatter ice-worn aspect I'd expected. I took a boat trip round Pingo National Park (find it at Pingo Canadian Landmark) and, as some photo-spheres are taken inside buildings, I ended up inside an airport reception area, and a store selling everything from bananas and Cadbury's chocolate to bikes and guitars! I then headed back to Greenland, a stopping off point for Arctic exploration ships, and a boat trip round Disko Bay, followed by a walk near Ilulissat to see a glacier breaking off into the sea. There's no way I'd do any of this in real life!

Now I'm wondering where to travel to next ... I've been watching Planet Earth 2 so I might try and track down some of the locations...

All the photos here are my own but Google will take you to almost the exact location


  1. I love Streetview too. I often find though that it doesn't look as nice as the real place does.

    1. On the other hand, the weather always seems bright and sunny! I certainly wished my Arctic exploration could have been in winter but that's probably not at all feasible.

  2. Oh interesting idea... book locations!! I am a bit of a map/street view nerd too. Lol but I don't remember to do it that often.
    Mostly to plan a roadtrip. 😉

    Saying that, I was up in Northumberland this morning.. hehe...

    1. I love it! It's becoming one of my most visited web sites. Daughters go off travelling, or I hear something in the news, and I'm checking places out. So I've been to Disneyland Florida and Svalbard this week :)