The United Kingdom (UK) consists of England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
The British Isles
Great Britain consists of England, Wales and Scotland and is the eighth largest island in the world. It has a total area of 218,980 km2. Great Britain only includes about 90% of the total area of the United Kingdom, which consists of England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. The term the British Isles should only be used when referring to the whole of Great Britain, the Channel Islands, the Isle of Man and all of Ireland. Ireland is made up of Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.
The UK has its central government in London, but Scotland, Wales and N. Ireland also have their own governments in Edinburgh, Cardiff and Belfast, which have some powers to handle domestic affairs. The Republic of Ireland is an independent country with its parliament in Dublin. The Isle of Man and the Channel Islands are direct dependencies of the British Crown and are not part of the UK. The Queen is the Head of State, but they have their own government and legal system. The government in London deals with their external affairs and defence.
Great Britain is about 1000 km from north to south and about 500 km across at the widest part. The most mountainous region is in Scotland, where we find the highest mountain in the British Isles, Ben Nevis (1,343 m). Wales is also very mountainous and has the second highest peak south of the Scottish Highlands, (Snowdon 1,085 m). In northern England, the Pennine Range, "the backbone of England" and the Lake District have the highest hills, though the highest of these, Scafell Pike, is only 978m. One of the most popular areas for walking and mountain hiking, the Yorkshire Dales, is in the central area of the Pennines. Southern England is relatively flat and suitable for agriculture.
Rivers in Great Britain are quite short, the longest being the Severn and the Thames, but they have played a vital part in the industrial development of the country since they were an important means of transport until the building of the canals in the 18th century.
On the other large island in the British Isles, commonly called the Emerald Isle due to the green countryside, we find the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland. Northern Ireland, which consists of six counties, is the most fertile part of the island and is part of the United Kingdom.
Tasks and Activities
- Do you think the fact that the British are islanders has had an effect on the people and their values?
- In which part of the UK would you have preferred to live? Why?