Monday, October 13, 2014

What is the United Kingdom?

Its full title is The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland but you might hear people call it Britain, Great Britain or simply the UK.

The United Kingdom is made up of four countries - England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. The biggest island is divided into three countries – England, Wales and Scotland. This island is about 1100 kilometres long and is 480 kilometres wide at its widest point. At its nearest point only the 35km of the English Channel separate it from the coast of France.

England’s capital city, London, is also the capital of the UK. Most of England is lowland although there are upland areas, mostly towards the north west of the country.

Wales is to the west of the island, next to the Irish Sea. Its capital city, Cardiff, is on the south coast of the country. Wales is more mountainous than England, particularly in north and mid Wales.

Scotland is to the north of the country. It consists of two very different regions; the highlands, in the north of Scotland, and the lowlands in the south, on the border with England. As its name suggests, the Highland region is mountainous and sparsely populated. The lowland region is where most of Scotland’s population (just over five million people) live. The capital city is Edinburgh but the largest city is Glasgow.

Across the Irish Sea lies the island of Ireland. Only the north east corner (Northern Ireland) is part of the UK. The rest of the island is a separate country, the Republic of Ireland. Northern Ireland (population 1.8 million) is a hilly country which boasts the largest inland body of water in the UK, Lough Neagh, at 390 square kilometres.

The kingdoms of Scotland and England were united in 1707. On 18 September 2014, the people of Scotland vote in a referendum to decide whether Scotland should remain in the United Kingdom or become independent.

Scotland, Wales, England and Northern Ireland all have strong senses of national identity.

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