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General Information about the UK / Общая информация о Великобритании

The British Isles is a geographical name of an archipelago which is situated to the northwest of continental Europe and is separated from France by only 34 kilometers (21 miles) of water and is made up of two large islands - Great Britain and Ireland and a number of smaller islands. In total it is estimated that the UK includes around 1,000 islands, with about 800 in Scotland alone (the biggest of them are the Hebrides, the Orkney Islands and the Shetland Islands). Other islands are the Isle of Man (it has its own parliament and laws), the Isle of White, the Scilly Island, the Channel Island and the Lundy Island.

The UK is one of the smallest countries in the world. In size it is twice smaller than Spain or France. Its total area is about 245,000 square kilometers, but the population of the UK is over 60 million people.

Four countries that make up the UK are England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

England is situated in the central and southern part of Great Britain. Historically it's the most important part of the country. It's also the biggest and the most populated part of the UK.

Scotland is the northern part of Great Britain and it is much smaller than England. Scotland is very close to the Arctic circle. Because of its geographical position Scotland is less populated than England.

Wales is situated in the western part of the island.

Northern Ireland is the smallest part of the UK. It has only one-sixth of the territory of Ireland island.

"Ulster" is sometimes used as the second name of Northern Ireland, but we should keep in mind that the name "Ulster" refers not only to Northern Ireland but also to a part of Ireland along the Atlantic Ocean.

Historically, the four nations were divided into counties, that is areas for local government administration. Although these counties are still used to some extent for this purpose and as geographical areas, they are no longer the basis for local government administration.

England (its administrative status is a kingdom) is divided into 9 regions.

Scotland (its administrative status is a kingdom) is made up of 32 burghs, that is a Scottish name for cities with self government.

Wales (its administrative status is a principality) consists of 8 preserved counties of Wales.

Northern Ireland (its administrative status is a province) comprises 26 districts.

There is the Greenwich Royal Observatory in London, England, that is a truly unique place. The Meridian that passes through the principal Transit Instrument at the Observatory is the Prime Meridian or Longitude Zero degrees.

It became the official starting point for every time zone in the World since the conference was held in Washington DC, USA in October 1884. So it's a place that sets time (Greenwich Mean Time or GMT) and sets place (Greenwich Meridian). Although GMT has been replaced by atomic time (Universal Coordinated Time or UTC), GMT is still traditionally widely regarded as the correct time for every international time zone.

The Greenwich Royal Observatory in England was founded by order of king Charles 2 in 1675 to study astronomy and to fix zero longitude. There is a time ball on the roof of one of the houses which was the first public time signal. Every day at five minutes to one p.m. the ball rises and drops down at one o'clock sharp.

The island of Great Britain is comparatively small, but is has a surprisingly various landscape. The British landscape can be divided roughly into two kinds of terrain. We can say that there are two main regions - Lowland Britain and Highland Britain.

Lowland Britain covers southern and eastern England. Lowland Britain is a plain with chalk, sandstone and limestone hills, long valleys and plains, basins such as the Wash. The world famous white cliffs of Dover are also formed of chalk.

Highland Britain includes mountains of Cumbria, Scotland, the Lake District in the north-west England, the Pennine Chain, the counties of Devon and Cornwall in the south-western part of England and almost the whole of Wales and Northern Ireland.

The southern part of Great Britain is known for its valleys and the best soil. Kent is often called "The Garden of England", because it is the largest fruit producer.

The UK is well known for its wide variety of landscapes and scenery. There are various kinds of vegetation in this country as well.  The flora here is less rich as that in southern countries.

Oak, ash, beech and elm are the most common trees in England and Wales.  As for Scotland there are many pines and birches. Great Britain is also popular for its moorland covered with heather.

As humid climate is so good for plants, early in spring a lot of flowers and trees bloom every year. It happens much earlier than in many other European countries.

There are no big forests in Great Britain. Sherwood forest is one the most popular. It is located to the north of London. The name of a legendary hero Robin Hood is connected to it.

The fauna of the British Isles has much in common with that of European mainland. Among not so numerous species there are such animals as the wolf, the bear. In some areas there are also foxes, badgers and otters. Along the northern coast you may see seals.

Robin Redbreast is the national bird of the UK.


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