Over 140 people attempt to sketch UK with various degrees of success
17th May 2019

Back to the drawing board! More than 140 people attempt to sketch the British Isles from memory with various degrees of success as two in three leave out at least one nation

  • Great British Memory Map tested people’s ability to draw the UK based entirely on their own recollection 
  • Also measured whether respondents could locate their hometown – with half placing it in the wrong county 
  • Welsh people were found to be better than the English at pointing to the location of London on a blank map 

These misshapen, incomplete blobs are how British people sketch their own coastlines when asked to do so from memory.

Two in three people forgot to include at least one nation when asked to sketch the United Kingdom for a study. And Welsh people were superior to the English at pointing to London on a blank map.

Some people couldn’t even locate their own hometown, with half landing it in the wrong county as part of Premier Inn’s Great British Memory Map.

This is how respondents drew the United Kingdom from memory as  part of a study to test geographical recollection and accuracy. In the top-left corner is how Britain should appear when drawn

Researchers used artificial intelligence to combine 144 drawings into one representation of how the average respondent recalled the UK’s shape.

It shows a sprawling southern England running into a stunted Scotland with half of Wales apparently submerged and one tiny scrap of Northern Ireland surviving. 

The hundreds of individual drawings on which the final piece was based feature a variety of strange takes, including Britain in the shape of an upside-down triangle with to islands off its west coast.

Pictured, left: An accurate map of the United Kingdom also showing the Republic of Ireland. Right: A synthesis of 144 memory maps designed to show how the average respondent recalls Britain 

This shows how accurately people could place London on a map as part of the Premier Inn study, which revealed that Welsh people were better than the English at placing the capital 

People from Northern Ireland were the most proficient at locating their capital city on a map and were about 11.6 miles off on average.

But a fifth of them placed Belfast in the Republic of Ireland. Meanwhile, one in 10 non-Welsh respondents located Cardiff in England. 

And the issue of where to place England’s north-south divide proved to be as contentious as ever. A combination of 180 takes on where the divide sits placed the end of the south in Birmingham, West Midlands, and the start of the North in Leicester, East Midlands. But 10 per cent of people shunted the divide right down to Cambridge. 

Pictured, main: The variety of points at which participants place the north-south divide. Inset: The culmination of 184 people’s opinion on where the line falls, showing that the majority of the Midlands appears to be disputed territory 

The study found that younger people were more confident in their memory than older participants, with 44 per cent of Millennials believing they were at least 60 per cent accurate.

By contrast, just 35 per cent of Generation Xers were so sure and only 26 per cent of Baby Boomers rated themselves so highly.

But it was older generations that cartographers found produced the most accurate memory maps. Fifteen per cent of Baby Boomers received an accuracy rating of 60 per cent or higher, with just 12 per cent of Gen Xers hitting that mark.

Millennials were the worst, as just 10 per cent attained accuracy of 60 per cent or greater when drawing their maps.

The research also found male participants to be more confident than women, but that this confidence was misplaced as their female counterparts were generally more accurate.  




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