University of Edinburgh

BSL Geography Glossary - Contours - Example

Example: Looks at how to identify summits and v-shaped valleys using the contour lines on a map.

Contours are found on maps, but what are they? On this map, there are brown lines and these are contours. Contours show land height including mountains and flat lying land. Contours are numbered, on the map you can see the number 400, which means that at this point, and anywhere along this line, the land is 400 m high. The next line is numbered 405 m and so on. Why is this important? At the top of the hill, there is a round contour with a height of 500 m, however there is also a point numbered 501 m. This point is the summit of Black Hill. There are also round contours and another summit at Gask Hill. Between Black Hill and Gask Hill there is a valley. The summit of Gask Hill is 412 m high. Near Green Cleugh contours are very close together, this shows we are looking down onto very steep ground. This is a steep sided V-shaped valley. [Aerial photograph]

I will look for a flatter area, with widely spaced contours. Half way up Black Hill there is an area of flat land and on the land to the north-west of Black Hill. The wider contours represent flatter land. This shows the area might be easier to walk on! The dashed black lines on the map represent the footpaths that you should follow. This symbol on the map helps you to know where you can go for walks. The map also shows streams, which are blue. The streams start on the hills and flow downhill into lakes, lochs or the sea. Contours bend into a V shape when they meet a stream, this is because the water in the streams is causing erosion