The History of England

from Celts through 20th century

Geography, Climate, Fauna and Flora of the UK

Category: Land + People

The Geography of the UK and its Location

The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland is a country to the northwest of Europe. The UK is surrounded by the Atlantic Ocean, the North Sea, the English Channel and the Irish Sea. Great Britain is the largest of the two main islands of the British Isles and makes up most of the territory of the UK. It is also the largest island in Europe and the ninth largest island in the world. It is surrounded by over 1,000 smaller islands and islets. England, Scotland and Wales are situated on the island.

The narrowest part of the English Channel has two names. The English name is the Strait of Dover because Dover is an English town, but the French name of this strait is Pas de Calais as Calais is a French town. In French, it means “a step to Calais”. Great Britain is connected to France by means of the Channel Tunnel, which is constructed under the strait.

There are no very big rivers in the UK. The biggest are the Severn (the longest) and the Thames (the deepest). There are quite many lakes in the UK. The sixteen of them are in the Lake District. This place is a very popular resort because of the beautiful lakes which give it its name. The deepest lake in the UK is Loch Morar. Loch Ness is the second deepest lake of the country, which is also famous for its monster and the legend about it.

There are a lot of mountains in the UK. The biggest mountain chains are the Cheviot Hills (the Cheviots), which separate England from Scotland, and the Pennine Chain (the Pennines), which is also called the backbone of England. The ten tallest mountains in the UK are all located in Scotland. The highest point of the UK, Ben Nevis, is in the Scottish Highlands, too.

England is a part of the Island of Great Britain. It consists of nine regions, divided into 45 counties, and Greater London. The main cities are London (the capital), Birmingham (the UK‟s second largest city after London, “the workshop of the world” or the “city of a thousand trades”), Manchester (a textile centre), Bristol (a cultural centre), Leeds (the country‟s largest centre of business and finance), Oxford and Cambridge (the university towns), Stratford-upon-Avon (the native town of William Shakespeare). The two main rivers of the UK, the Thames and the Severn, flow through England. Lots of England’s best sights are located in the southern counties.

Scotland is the second part of the Island of Great Britain. It consists of nine regions and areas. The main cities are Edinburgh (the capital), Aberdeen (an industrial centre), Glasgow (a cultural centre), Liverpool (a port and the native town of The Beatles).

Scotland consists of the Highlands, the Lowlands and the Southern Uplands (high hills). Castles are the main sights of Scotland.

The Edinburgh Festival of Music and Drama (the emblem of which is the thistle) is famous all over the country. The Scottish Highland games, including sports, dancing and piping competitions, are very popular, too. It is interesting to know that:

- the kilt is a traditional Scottish man’s skirt;

- the clan is a large Scottish family;

- Mc or Mac is the prefix used in the Scottish family names, meaning the son of or from the family of (e.g. McGregor = from the family of Mr Gregor).

Wales is the third part of the Island of Great Britain. It consists of eight counties. Cymru is the name of the country in Welsh. The main cities are Cardiff (the capital), Eisteddford (formerly a gathering of bards, at present a festival of Welsh culture), Newport and St. Davids.

The Welsh Dragon is the name of the Welsh flag, which is not represented in the Union Jack.

Among the sights of this part of Great Britain is the wonderful countryside of Wales with its castle ruins, sandy beaches, green hilltops, Roman forts and the Welsh famous coal mine.

The Island of Ireland

The poetic name of Ireland is the Emerald Isle because the green grass makes the island look very green and beautiful. Ireland is the third largest island in Europe. It is separated from Great Britain by the Irish Sea. There are two countries on the island.

- The Irish Republic or the Republic of Ireland or the Republic of Eire is located on the five-sixths of the island and is independent of the UK. The capital of the Irish Republic is Dublin. Another famous city is Limerick. The nonsense verse of five comic and funny lines was named after this town, and Edward Lear is said to be the inventor of the limerick.

Northern Ireland (Ulster), a part of the United Kingdom, covers the rest of the territory of the island. It consists of 26 districts. Lough Neagh in Northern Ireland is the largest lake in the UK. The main cities are Belfast (the capital) and Londonderry.

There are many interesting places in Northern Ireland. Among them is the Giant’s Causeway, the eighth Wonder of the World.

Many Irish surnames begin with the prefixes “O‟…”, “Fitz…”, “Kil…”, “Gil…” meaning the son of (e.g. O‟Brien, Fitzgerald, Kilmartin, Gilmurrey).

The Climate and the Environment of the UK

The climate of the UK is usually cool, temperate and humid. The weather in Britain changes quite often because of the winds, the seas and the Gulf Stream. Summers are not hot and winters are not cold in Britain. As a rule, there is no ice on the water of the rivers and the lakes. The temperature seldom drops below −10 °C (14.0 °F) or rises above +35 °C (95 °F). So we may say that the British weather has three main features: it is mild, humid and very changeable. The well-known joke about it is: there is no bad weather, there are bad clothes.

The Fauna and the Flora of the UK

The UK is not really rich in animals, birds and plants. The animals are squirrels, rabbits, hares, hedgehogs and others. The birds are golden eagles, kingfishers, pigeons and sparrows. But there are many trees and about 1,500 different kinds of wild flowers in Britain.

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