- Geography -
THE BRITISH ISLES - UK
Whenever we hear talk about Britain, the British Isles, the United Kingdom, it is always difficult to say what is what.
The British Isles are the two large islands that can be found in the north west part of the European continent. The smaller island is Ireland and the other is called Great Britain. Great Britain [F1] [I 1] [ES1] is made up of three separate countries: England, Wales and Scotland. The Irish Island is divided in Northern Ireland and the Independent Republic of Ireland, which is also called Eire.
UK [F1] [F2] [I 1] [ES1] (which stands for United Kingdom) is a political term which identifies the union of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.
|England (and GB/UK in general)||London|
|Republic of Ireland||Dublin|
The British landscape is roughly made up of two different kinds of terrain: lowland areas, which can be found in the south of the country, and the highlands, in the northern areas. But this division may be a bit too simple and cannot fully describe the fascinating combination of landscapes of Britain [F1] [I 1] [ES1]: green valleys are contrasted by hills, lakes, rivers and mountains. Each country has its own unique features, that is why we are going to have a closer look at them in the following paragraphs
England. England [F1] [I 1] [ES1] is the largest land amongst the ones that make up the United Kingdom. The south of England consists mainly of lowland areas, except for the White Cliffs of Dover , in the south-eastern part of the country. Instead in the north we can find the Pennine Chain , which are often referred to as “the backbone of England”. In England we can also find the most famous river in Britain, the Thames (338 km), which flows through the capital, London.
Wales. Wales [F1] [I 1] [ES1] is the small mountainous country that lies in the western part of Britain. Wales is almost entirely covered by the Cambrian mountains whose highest peak is Mount Snowdon (1085 m). In the past this mountainous chain has formed a natural barrier against the invaders and this has influenced greatly on the way the population speaks. In fact even though everyone speaks English, there is at least 20% of the population that speaks Welsh (a language of Celtic origins) as their first language. The people are proud of their Celtic origins and some use the word Cymru to refer to their homeland as it means “land of brotherhood”.
Scotland. Scotland [F1] [I 1] [ES1]lies in the north of Britain and it is made up of three different areas: the Highlands, in the north, the Lowlands, in the south where we can find Edinburgh, the capital, and the Islands, in the western part of the country. Scotland is characterized by its mountainous land, whose highest mountains are in the Grampians Mountains. The most famous lake of the United Kingdom is here as well: it's Loch Ness, in whose waters hides the legendary monster Ness.
Northern Ireland. As we have seen before, Ulster (or Northern Ireland [F1] [I 1] [ES1]) is part of the United Kingdom, while the rest of the island is and independent country. Since the north-eastern part of the island was occupied by Protestant English settlers, who were given the land of the native Catholic Irish people, this has become a troubled land, with continuous fights (if not terrorist attacks and little wars) between the central government and the independent part of the country. Nevertheless, the mixed population today is trying to live in peace.
Eire: the Republic of Ireland. Ireland [F1] [I 1] [ES1] is the island opposite Britain that can be found in the northwest of Europe. Eire covers the main part of the land, about 85%, while the remaining 15% is occupied by Ulster. The Republic of Ireland is characterised by a central plain and is often referred to as the Emerald Island because of its green countryside. But a distinctive feature of this land is represented by the hilly lands along the coasts and by the presence of lots of bays and fjords
|longest river: the Severn (354 km)||England|
|largest lake: Lough Neagh (390 sq km)|| Northern Ireland |
|highest mountain: Ben Nevis (1,343 m)||Scotland|
The British climate is generally mild, with relatively warm winters (average minimum temperature in winter is 3 degrees) and cool summers, with temperatures that rarely go above the maximum of 25/30 degrees. If compared to other European countries, British weather is very different, and in fact Britain is considered the rainiest European country. But in reality British weather is variable, and this is due to the influence of the western winds, which bring along rain, and of the sea which, with the influence of the Gulf stream, warms up the country.