I am working on a map that requires second-level subdivisions for the United Kingdom, looking for these in shapefile format. These would be county-level subdivisions. I've done a lot of searching at the data.gov.uk website and also at Ordnance Survey GIS data download website but I can' t seem to find the right shapefile.

Ideally the shapefile should have the second level subdivisions that match the current Wikipedia resource at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ISO_3166-2:GB#Second-level_subdivisions, so Buckinghamshire should have the code GB-BKM in the shapefile, Cambridgshire should have the coding GB-CAM Cambridgeshire, and Cumbria should have the coding GB-CMA.

Does anyone know of a download link from data.gov.uk or another UK government website that has this? I've done numerous online and Google searches. I found this one one on ceremonial counties - https://data.gov.uk/dataset/ceremonial-county-boundaries-of-england but it doesn't seem like the right one. And I'm Canadian, so I'm confused by the different offerings out there such as Ceremonial counties, and historical counties, unary, etc.

  • 1
    I think this question might be better researched/asked at the Open Data Stack Exchange.
    – PolyGeo
    Jan 15, 2017 at 9:47
  • Are the GADM level-1 regions what you want? Get from gadm.org/country via menus. These things do change frequently so caveat emptor.
    – Spacedman
    Jan 15, 2017 at 14:25
  • @Spacedman Thanks for the link to gadm.org , but I may need it for commercial reuse later on and gadm.org does not allow commecial re-use. I'll try looking more at Ordnance Survey or data.gov.uk.
    – user89680
    Jan 15, 2017 at 18:09

3 Answers 3


Looking at the list you link to you will need several layers from the OS Boundary-line data set -

  1. two-tier county are in county_region
  2. London borough are in district_borough_unitary_region
  3. metropolitan district are in district_borough_unitary_region
  4. unitary authority are in district_borough_unitary_region
  5. council area are in district_borough_unitary_region

The only thing missing is Northern Ireland's districts which aren't part of GB.


You can also get similar from the ONS here, I suspect you've been looking in the wrong place.

ONS are a source for a lot of this data. The starting point of the information and data they hold is here.

Now you can search the ONS for NUTS units too

So maybe using a lookup you can find the shapefiles you want, then search for a look-up table and then finally join against the ISO spec codes. But since ONS feed into the ISO spec, you might be able just match against names, and use these to link to the codes.


Thanks for all your answers everybody. For my needs I found them at different sources. Northern Ireland boundaries were found at the website of Land & Property Services/OSNI. England and Wales data were obtained from National Statistics website. And I found Scotland boundaries from Natural Earth data. Yes, it required a lot of mixing and matching and some simplifying of vectors, and editing of feature attribute tables, but I have the maps that I need now.

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