If you're living in the UK you couldn't say its almost summer. The longest day of the year is my particular opening shot of the barbecue season, music festivals and holidays abroad. Those without any annual leave left by June or on a tight budget can still try some of Britain's best hidden destinations in the countryside—if the weather allows.
Most Amazing Walks [iTunes Link] by Reader's Digest is a guide with 200 well-documented walks across the country which can be used to plan and track your strolls outdoors. This is in fact an app version of the book of the same name, with the added bonus of the built-in GPS on your iPhone and zoomable maps.
The app launches asking you to "Plan a walk", the fastest way to see the walks on offer. A list view shows the walks per region, but I prefer the map view, where you can see the spots layered on top of Google Maps. Every walk is labelled the walking distance in miles, difficulty level according with how dementing the track is and the estimated time to complete it. The detail view packs even more information, with a zoomable map, facilities available and the weather forecast for the week.
So far, the planning side of the app allows you to browse through different options to plan your trip–nothing too different from the book I guess. Once you have chosen your destination and are ready to go, Amazing Walks turns into a tracking tool to guide you through the route, highlight interesting facts about buildings and views in the area and measure your stats during the walk. That's handy!
Simply tap the "Begin Walk", make sure that the items in that minimalist reminder list are checked, and you are ready to go. The tracking view has been designed to give you quick information during the walk to avoid getting lost or miss cool scenery along the way. Packed with a compass, distance counter and altitude meter, the app shows your position on Reader's Digest own map and lists all the walk milestones. From this view you can also read the markers on the map in a plain text view, which are used to give indications on the route and mention any spot of historical value.
Last but not least, a statistics view keeps track of your activity to provide useful info about your walk, including an altitude graph, estimated time of arrival at the current pace and calories burned. If you are familiar with the awesome sports-tracking app RunKeeper, you'll be familiar with these tools. Since RunKeeper can run on the background and includes an option for walking work-outs, you can also use it as a companion app to have more detailed stats and being able to export them to its online dashboard.
Reader's Digest Most Amazing Walks is a great discovery tool for great outdoor alternatives for those who want to spend some time in contact with nature, keeping fit and avoid a lot of preparation. The fact that every walk is well documented and includes maps available offline, means that the whole planning of the day out is not such as hassle.
As an app companion to the book, it does a great job plus adds very handy features. However, I'd like to see a social element to it, where users could give feedback on the routes, share tips and even suggest new locations. I completely understand that a lot of care has gone in compiling the 200 walks, but it can surely include more content, even if its crowd-sourced. What about user pictures? Friends of mine are regular at a website where users contribute with their own routes and points of interest—there's an interest about it.
I haven't been able to find a full list of the walks included, so it could be a disappointment to buy the app and find no route in your area. I also miss some transport information to know the closest station or interactions on how to get there using public transport. All in all, an useful companion to plan and track your walks in the countryside with the quality seal of a household name.