The Great Polish Map of Scotland

Last week 3 friends and I visited an amazing and little know site in the Scottish Borders – the Great Polish Map of Scotland.  At 50m by 40m it is probably the largest  3D map in the world.  Its located in the grounds of the Barony Castle Hotel, on the fringes of the village of Eddleston.  The Great Polish Map is also know as the Mapa Scotland, derived from the Polish, mapa Szkocji.  It sits in a peaceful location, surrounded by trees.  It is a place to quietly contemplate the world and perhaps learn more about the Polish contribution to Scotland.  The story of the map is one of love, loss and rediscovery that stretches from the second world war to today.


Borders Heritage Festival

The Map will be one of many heritage attractions in the Scottish Borders Heritage Festival, which runs throughout this September.  You can also follow them on Facebook, to get all the latest updates.  The full programme of events will be published in August


Jan Tomasik

The map was the brainchild of Krakow-born Jan Tomasik, a sergeant in the 1st (Polish) Armoured Division, who had been stationed in Galashiels.  In 1942 he married a Scottish nurse after being treated in the town’s Peel Hospital.   After the war, and the communist takeover of Poland, many Poles settled in Scotland.  I recall in the 1970s, there still being a substantial community of Poles in Galashiels, with a club based in Sime Street.


Tomasik became a successful hotelier in Edinburgh and added Black Barony to his properties in 1968.  The Black Barony had been the Staff College for Polish officers under the command of General Stanislaw Mazcek, during the war.


The Inspiration?

The inspiration for creating the map is not clear.  Tomasik developed a close friendship with his old commander Maczek, giving him a job and inviting the Maczek family to spend their summer holidays at the newly refurbished Barony Castle Hotel in the 1970s.  This has led to speculation that Maczek, with his tank commander’s interest in topography, may have had some input, into the design idea for the map, though there is no real evidence of this.


In 1940 Polish soldiers had created an outline map of Poland on the ground in Douglas, Lanarkshire, where Tomasik was stationed on arriving in Britain.  He was also fascinated by a large scale map of Belgium he saw at the Brussels Fair in 1958.   Tomasik seems to have regarded the Map as an added attraction for hotel guests and sightseers.  He’s also on record as having said that he wanted to show the country the Poles had defended.   It was to be his legacy, describing it as  a “gift to the Scottish people” for the hospitality the Scots had shown the Poles during the war.  The 1st Polish Corps were responsible for the defence of large parts of the Scottish coastline including Angus (1940-42) and East Lothian.  They later  played a major role  in the Normandy Landings (1944), the liberation of the Netherlands and defeating the Third Reich.
Waymarker for the Great Polish Map of Scotland

Dr Trafas and the Great Polish Map Project

The map was designed by Dr. Kazimierz Trafas, a young cartographer from the Jagiellonian University in Krakow.  It took six consecutive summers between 1974 and 1979 to construct the map.  The bulk of the work was completed by late summer in 1976.

In the summer of 1974, Dr Trafas arrived in Scotland with his departmental colleague Roman Wolnik.  Trafas and Wolnik, surveyed the site and marked out the outline of the map to a scale of 1:10,000.  Locations were correlated with a set of Bartholomew’s survey maps of Scotland.  The following summer, Tomasik revisited Poland, returning with Trafas, Wolnik and three Krakow University employees hired to provide the manual labour to construct the concrete map. The hotel manager Marek Raton, a son-in-law of Tomasik, and hotel maintenance man Bill Robson also worked on the project.  Some of the labour was supplied by hiring Polish exchange students visiting Britain.

The body of the map was gradually built up by infilling the prepared outlines with cement. Mountain summits were marked by vertical rods, their heights exaggerated five times relative to the horizontal scale to increase the visual effect.  The topography was then finished off by manually sculpting the landforms according to the contours shown on the Bartholomew maps.


Completing the Map

After the last visit of the Polish cartographers in 1977, hotel employees and members of the Tomasik family continued to work on the map over two more summers before it was completed in 1979. The surface was painted with forests, urban areas, major roads and lochs shown. A wall was built around the map to create an oval-shaped basin, 1.5m deep. This was then supplied with water diverted from a nearby stream to create the seas and lochs. The gravity-fed water also flowed through submerged pipes to the major river sources.


In 1977 and 1978 work continued, but at a slower pace.  By 1979 the basin wall was completed.  Soil excavated from the basin, which had been piled around the perimeter, was landscaped to form a gently sloped banking. The surface of the map was coated in a resin compound and painted grey. Geographical features were added by painting forests green, outlining the major cities in light brown and painting the major roads red. Rivers and lochs were painted blue.  Piped water from the nearby Dean Burn  formed the surrounding seas.  Narrower submerged pipes supplied the sources of the major rivers.


It’s quite difficult to get a good picture, standing on the ground, that shows the full beauty of the map.  And I wasn’t for climbing any of the nearby trees.  There was also a large green bag over some equipment, in the middle of the map, which rather spoiled my photographic attempts.  So here’s a recent clip  from Secret Britain by  the BBC that shows an aerial view of the map in all her glory. The picture below looks over the Scottish Borders on the Map.


The Scottish Borders on the Great Polish Map of Scotland


The Tomasik family sold the hotel in 1985.  The map gradually deteriorated, suffering frost damage and eventually became overgrown  and almost hidden from sight.  In 1994, the now Professor Trafas, mentioned the forgotten map at a European Union meeting of town planners.  The rediscovery of the map had begun.  Eventually, in 2010, Mapa Scotland was formed to save the map from further decay and restore it to its’ original condition.

Mapa Scotland

Mapa Scotland held its  inaugural meeting and Open Day at Barony Castle on Sunday 25 April 2010.  In August 2010 the initial clean-up started.   In September 2010 the Map was the subject of a debate in the Scottish Parliament sponsored by Christine Grahame MSP.  Simultaneously  translated into Polish, it was the first time a translation other than Gaelic was used in the Scottish Parliament.  In 2012 a major milestone was achieved when the map received  Category B-listed status.

 Great Polish Map Scotland

In 2013 work began on clearing loose rubble and weeds from the map in advance of restoration. In the same year Mapa Scotland acquired charitable status. Its main aim is to ensure that the map becomes a permanent feature in the Scottish Borders landscape.  An educational resource and visitor attraction for future generations to admire and enjoy.  You can volunteer, find more information and progress updates on the Mapa Scotland website or on their Facebook site.  It is clear that the volunteers have put an enormous effort into restoring the Map.  We look forward to returning  to see the next stage of the restoration.  Please  support the restoration of the map by donating on the website.


How to find the great polish map of scotland

Barony Hotel, Eddleston EH45 8QW

OS: NT2367 4717

From the North, drive south from the A720 Edinburgh city bypass to Peebles on the A703. At the village of Eddleston take the first right opposite the Horseshoe Inn and drive 200 metres to the gates of the Barony Castle Hotel on the right. Then follow the driveway to the car park.

By public transport from Edinburgh, take the No. 62 bus from St Andrew Square bus station to Eddleston, alighting at the Horseshoe Inn, and follow the sign opposite to the Barony Castle Hotel (about a half a mile walk gently uphill).  Look out for the llamas

From the South, follow the A68 from Newcastle and Jedburgh. At Galashiels take the A72 to Peebles, then the A703 to the village of Eddleston. Take the first left opposite the Horseshoe Inn and drive 200 metres to the gates of the Barony Castle Hotel on the right. Then follow the driveway to the car park.

At the hotel, follow signs to the map or ask for directions at the hotel reception. ACCESS TO THE MAP IS FREE.

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