New to Orienteering?

Orienteering is an exciting outdoor adventure sport which involves navigating around a course using a detailed map and sometimes a compass.
The aim is to navigate between a set of control points and decide the best route to complete the course in the quickest time. It does not matter how young, old or fit you are, and you can run, walk or jog round the course and progress at your own pace.

05th May 22

Orienteering can be a competitive individual sport or a recreational activity. You normally take part individually, but beginners can go out in pairs or a small group. At a competitive event, the person that visits all the controls in the right order, in the shortest time, is the winner.

Do I need to be a club member to take part?

No, just come along to any of our events and give orienteering a go. If you find you enjoy it then you are very welcome to join the club.

Family Orienteering

Family Orienteering

Is Orienteering a family friendly sport?

Yes, there are many orienteering families where mum, dad and the children all take part. Because there are usually a number of different length and difficulty courses there is something suitable for everyone. The start times are spread over a period of time, so parents can take turns with childcare.

How do I get started?

The best place to get started is by coming along to one of our events. Most times you can just turn up and have a go. There will be someone at registration who will help get you started.

We also have some Virtual Orienteering Courses (VOC) where you use your smartphone to take part and record your route. These can be great way to try out the sport without any pressure.

You could also try one of our Permanant Orienteering Courses, where there are posts or plaques at the control points.

If you have any other questions email secretary'at'

What equipment/clothing do I need?

No special equipment is needed to start with, just comfortable outdoor clothing and footwear. If you are a runner, then the sort of things you would wear for a trail run are perfect. A compass will be useful as you progress, but not essential to get started. Your entry fee will include your own copy of the map.

Where can I do it?

Orienteering can take place anywhere from the streets of Ayr to the many forests and moorland that we are fortunate to have nearby. You will also find orienteering taking place in school playgrounds, university campuses, country parks and cities.

What do the maps look like?

Orienteering maps are very different to Ordnance Survey maps. They are more detailed and larger in scale, showing fences, bushes and small depressions in the land. Different colours are used to show different types of vegetation or undergrowth and how dense they are. Contour lines join up areas of the same height, and when they are close together it means the slope is steep. Orienteers love contours as they add complications to the shape of the land and a means to navigate across it. Download a PDF with a full explanation of the symbols on the map.

Dean Castle Country Park map

Dean Castle Country Park map

How do I know which course to select?

There is usually a range of courses with varying degrees of navigational difficulty, so there’s something to suit all ages and levels of experience. The easier courses stick to paths, while the harder ones require more complex navigation and advanced map reading skills. How the courses are graded will vary depending on what sort of event it is, so it's best to ask one of the club volunteers, who'll be happy to recommend a course for you to try.

What does an orienteering course map look like?

The example below is of one of our Virtual Orienteering Courses, but most course maps will look similar. Download a PDF explaining  the control descriptions on the right side of the map.

Example map with course

Example map with course

How do I know when I'm at the right place?

Visiting a control

Visiting a control

Each control is marked by a small orange and white marker, also known as a kite. It has a unique code that you can compare with the one on your map to make sure you’ve found the right one. The control description will indicate what sort of feature you are looking for. It could be a path junction, tree, fence or some other distinctive feature.

On a Virtual course there will not be any marker at the location, but your phone (or Garmin watch) will beep when you are in the immediate proximity of the location and record the time you were there.

Can’t I just cheat and say I’ve been to all the controls?

Timing chip

Timing chip

Timing chip

At an event you normally carry an electronic timing chip (sometimes referred to as a Dibber) that records your time at each control to prove you’ve been there and that you did them in the correct sequence. When you finish, you often get a printout that shows how long you took between each control.
Your smartphone replaces the timing chip if you are trying a Virtual course.

What happens at the start?

Unlike a road race, there is no mass start. Competitors go off individually (or in a very small group), separated by a minute or more. As a beginner you will be given your map in advance so you can study it and plan your route to the first control. Once you become more confident you won't get the map until you are about to start.

Sounds great! What next?

Come along to an event and have a chat

Watch some explanatory videos

There are a number of good videos that will help you understand what orienteering is all about and prepare you for your first go at orienteering.

Think Fast, Run Hard is presented by an International orienteer who explains everything very clearly in about 5 mins. There are a further 8 videos in the series.

Getting started is the first video in a set of four made by Manchester orienteering club.

Others in the series:
Getting Going
Getting Confident
Getting Faster

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