The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland is located in northwestern Europe between the North Sea, the Atlantic Ocean, the Irish Sea and the English Channel. The island state comprises the main island of Great Britain, on which the capital London is also located, and the semi-autonomous parts of England, Scotland and Wales. Northern Ireland occupies the northeast of the island of Ireland and borders the Republic of Ireland.
The United Kingdom comprises several islands and archipelagos: the Isles of Wight in the south and Anglesey off Wales in the Irish Sea, the Isles of Scilly in the south-west, the Hebrides in the north-west, the Orkney and Shetland Islands in the north, the Channel Islands Guernsey and Jersey in front the French Channel coast and the northeastern part of the island of Ireland.
The state has close ties to most of the former colonies in the Commonwealth. Great Britain is predominantly an industrialized country whose industry is undergoing serious structural change. The former energy source coal has been largely displaced by oil and natural gas produced in the North Sea. The island of Great Britain is connected to mainland Europe by the Eurotunnel. The UK is not part of the euro area.
Abbreviated as UK by ABBREVIATIONFINDER, the United Kingdom also includes 13 dependent territories, the Dependent Territories, in almost all regions of the world. They are remnants of the former British colonial empire.
Great Britain is a member of the EU, but does not belong to the euro zone.
The main island of Great Britain extends for almost 1000 km from north to south. Their significantly smaller east-west extension rarely exceeds 500 km. Therefore, no part of the country is more than 130 km away from the coast. This is divided by numerous bays and estuaries of the larger rivers as well as in the north by fjords, which in the English Firth, but as the lakes are also called Loch. The largest part of England occupies the central, southern and eastern parts of the main island. Its relief is mostly flat to hilly.
Higher heights are only reached in the Cumbrian Mountains on the Irish Sea (979 m), in the Pennine Mountains, the backbone of the island (893 m), as well as in the granite massifs of Cornwall and Dartmoor (621 m) in the extreme southwestern tip of the island.
The English lowlands in the south and south-east, a layered stepland consisting of younger strata, is the actual heartland of England. The lowland is divided into
two large stratified arches running from southwest to northeast. The longer northern one is a Jurassic limestone step. The one further south is a chalk layer step.
Also made from layers of chalk consist of the flat ridges south of London. They are particularly impressive in the white cliffs of Dover, which impress visitors to the island who come by canal ferries from afar. The part of Wales comprises the broad western peninsula of Great Britain and the island of Anglesey.
The Cambrian Mountains, which were formed during the Ice Age, have the character of a low mountain range and are often framed by high plateaus, which often slope down to the sea with steep cliffs. A specialty of the mountains are the coal seams and the traditional slate quarries.
- The predominantly mountainous Scotland begins north of the Solway Firth. From the southern border of Scotland the three major landscapes of the country follow one another to the north: the Southern Uplands (the Scottish highlands), the Lowlands (the central lowlands) and in the northern area the Highlands (the Scottish Highlands).In the Lowlands, the Firth of Clyde to the west and the Firth of Forth to the east come within 50 km. They are connected to each other by a canal.The vast highlands north of the Lowlands are separated into the Northern Highlands in the north and the Grampian Mountains in the south by the 95 km long rift valley, rich in lakes, of the Glen More, which the Caledonian Canal uses. In the Grampian Mountains is the highest peak in the United Kingdom, Ben Nevis, at 1,343 m. The Scottish west coast, in particular, is strongly indented by fjords that reach far into the country. There are numerous larger (Skye) and smaller islands in front of it. The coasts in the Northern Highlands are mostly cliffs where weathering and erosion have carved out bizarre surface shapes.
- The island’s longest rivers are the Severn at 354 km, the Thames at 346 km, the 270 km Trent and the 156 km Tweed in Scotland. Great Britain is also rich in lakes, but the lakes are relatively small. The largest lake in the country with 396 km², Lough Neagh, is located in Northern Ireland. The Lake District in Northern England and the Scottish Lakes are popular vacation destinations like the waterfalls of the Grampian Mountains.
- Conflict-ridden Northern Ireland: The part of the country located in the north-east of the island of Ireland is predominantly occupied by mountain and hill country. The highest mountain is Slieve Donard (852 m) in the Morne Mountains in the southeast. Agriculture, which mainly cultivates oats and potatoes and dominates cattle breeding, takes a back seat to industry. Belfast is the capital and economic center. Of the approximately 1.65 million residents, almost 45% are Protestants, predominantly Presbyterians and Anglicans, and around 43% are Catholics. It is in this mix and in the history of Ireland that the fuel for the never-ending conflict in Northern Ireland lies .
For example, the Government of Ireland Act of December 23, 1920 separated the predominantly Protestant counties of the province of Ulster, now Northern Ireland, from the rest of the predominantly Catholic Ireland. Northern Ireland was granted autonomy as part of a union with Great Britain. The conflict between Protestants and Catholics has shaped the history of the region for decades. Underground organizations, especially the Catholic Irish Republican Army (IRA) and the Protestant Ulster Defense Association (UDA), tried to achieve their goals with terrorist means. A cautious dialogue began in 1993/94, which at the end of the 1990’s assumed the character of a peace process. But this is always overshadowed by violent clashes.
Climate and vegetation
Due to its island location, Great Britain has a pronounced oceanic climate with mild winters and cool summers.
Under the influence of the North Atlantic Current, a branch of the Gulf Stream,the islands are divided into a humid western half and a dry and warm eastern half. The mean July temperature in the western parts of the country is 15 °C, in the east of England 18 °C. The January mean in both regions is 4 °C. In Wales there are regions with more than 4000 mm of rainfall per year; in the drier east it is less than 600 mm (Fig. 10). The high humidity is the main cause of the frequent formation of fog, especially in winter. A light fog is typical, but due to the influence of the high level of air pollution, a thick fog can develop locally. The London smog is almost proverbial.
The country’s vegetation belongs to the Atlantic region of the European deciduous forest area with extensive raised and fens. Mountain heaths extend below and above the natural tree line between 300 m and 600 m, to the expansion of which humans have contributed significantly through forest destruction. Today the areas of heather and moors are twice as large as the forest areas.
For large parts of the English agricultural landscape, however, the hedge landscapes created in the past centuries are very typical.
Important data about the country
|244 100 km²
|243 residents / km²
|Growth of population:
|0.3% / year
(men / women)
|Form of government:
|Parliamentary hereditary monarchy
|English (official language), Gaelic (in Scotland), Cymrian (in Wales)
|Anglicans (30%), other Protestants (15%), Catholics (11%)
|humid maritime climate with mild winters, increasingly cool summers towards the north and decreasing precipitation towards the east
|Arable land 26%, pasture land 39%, forest 10%
(share of GDP)
|Agriculture 1%, industry 26.6%, services 72.4%
|Machines and vehicles, metal goods, chemical products, mineral fuels and electronic products
|Gross domestic product:
|$ 1,794,878 million (2003)
|Gross National Product:
|US $ 28,320 / residents (2003)
Economy and Transport
Great Britain is the oldest industrial country. Industrialization began as early as the early 18th century. By the beginning of the 20th century, the country had developed into the leading industrial nation in the world. Since the end of the Second World War, however, the economy has been plagued by several crises that peaked in the early 1990’s. The economy has been growing again since then (Fig. 15).
Mining and industry
Mining, especially iron ore and coal mining, has traditionally been of great economic importance, but has been declining for years for reasons of profitability and as a result of the depletion of the deposits. That is why the old heavy industrial centers in Central England and South Wales are now crisis regions.
Since hard coal mining is declining sharply, many large, but economically unprofitable collieries have had to close in the last few decades.
Of great economic importance, however, is the production of crude oil and natural gas, which began in the North Sea in 1975 and which can cover the country’s own needs. Together with Norway, Great Britain is the leading European oil nation.
Lead ore, rock salt, kaolin, fluorspar and gypsum are still mined on a large scale in Great Britain today. In the industry, metal processing, chemical and petrochemical industries have experienced a significant boom in recent years. Metalworking centers are in Greater London and the Leeds, Manchester and Sheffield regions in Central England. The chemical industry, on the other hand, is concentrated on the North Sea coast of England and Scotland.
The high-tech industries are of paramount importance the industries with which Britain has achieved worldwide recognition. They include the aerospace industry and the electrical and electronics industry. These growth industries are now located in northern England, northwestern England and the London area. Many computer and software companies have recently settled in Scotland, mostly branches of large American companies.
Due to its high productivity and favorable climate, British agriculture is able to produce around 75% of the country’s total food needs. Fully technical agriculture is one of the most efficient in the world.
The centers of grain cultivation are the eastern parts of Central England and Scotland, while sugar beets are mainly grown in eastern England and Lincolnshire.
Intensive horticulture is practiced in a wide area around London and other urban centers.
Fruit and vegetable cultivation predominate in the counties of southern England.
Three fifths of the farms deal with livestock and dairy farming. Mainly cattle and sheep are kept. Most of the farms are located in the wetter west.
However, the BSE cattle epidemic, which first appeared in 1985, endangers the future of cattle farmers. The foot and mouth disease outbreak in early 2001 made their situation even worse. In recent years, almost 6 million animals, mostly cattle, had to be slaughtered.
The fishing industry is mainly concentrated on the southwest and east coast between the Humber and the Morey Firth. But there are also fishing ports on the west coast. The fish catches of the former leading fishing nation Great Britain are declining.
The UK road and rail network is extremely dense. The shape of the surface of the land did not pose any obstacles to traffic development. There is left-hand traffic in the kingdom and in almost all of its former colonies .
Heathrow Airport in London has the highest passenger volume of any European airport. Another important hub, especially intercontinental air traffic with America, is Gatwick.
Only about 400 km of the extensive sewer network are used commercially.
The merchant fleet of what was once the world’s largest sea power is still important. There are around 300 seaports in England and Wales, including the major ports in London, Southampton, Dover (for passenger traffic across the Canal), Liverpool and Manchester and Glasgow in Scotland.
There are numerous ferry connections to mainland Europe and, since 1994, the Eurotunnel.
London is a major attraction for international tourism. Other major tourist destinations are the old university cities of Oxford and Cambridge, the south and south-west coast of England, the Scottish lake region and the highlands.