The official name of Britain is the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. But people often make this name shorter – they call this country “the United Kingdom ”, or even “the UK ”. The United Kingdom is situated to the north-west of Europe. Actually it is separated from Europe by the Channel. The Channel is not very broad, only about 40 kilometers. Now a tunnel constructed under the Channel lines up the UK with its nearest continental neighbour, France. So it is much easier to reach the UK from Europe than earlier when it could be done only on board of a ship. Since 1973 the United Kingdom is a member of the European Union.
The United Kingdom is situated on some of the British Isles. The UK occupies the Island of Great Britain (which is the largest island in Europe), a number of small islands to the west of Scotland and the northern part of the Island of Ireland. The southern part of the Island of Ireland is the Republic of Eire.
Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland consists of four almost independent countries. These are England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland.
England is bigger than the other countries in both its territory and population. About 58 million people live in Britain, and about 75 percent of the British population lives in England. The capital of England as well as of the whole United Kingdom is London, which is situated in the south-east of England. London is more than a thousand years old.
Scotland occupies the northern part of the Island of Great Britain. In area Scotland is more than half as big as England. But Scotland has the lowest population density in the UK. Scotland has its own legal, banking and education systems. The capital of Scotland is Edinburgh. It is an old beautiful city. Glasgow is the main industrial centre of Scotland. Scotland is well-known for its beautiful mountainous scenery.
Wales is lying in the western part of the Island of Great Britain. It is not so populated as England – only about two million people live in Wales. Wales is one of the most beautiful parts of
the British Isles – with hills and high mountains, deep rivers and valleys. The capital of Wales is Cardiff. It is the biggest town in Wales and also an important port.
The Northern Ireland occupies the northern part of the Island of Ireland. The capital of this country is Belfast. The Northern Ireland is the most problematical part of the UK. Some people in the Northern Ireland want to be independent from the UK. That’s why there are permanent conflicts and terror acts organized the Ireland ’ s liberation army in the Northern Ireland and in other parts of the UK.
Foreigners often call everyone in the UK “English”, but the Irish, the Welsh and the Scots don’t like this, because they are Celts by the origin, and the English are the Teutons. Every part of the UK has its own language which is not like the English language.
Like its own language each part of the United Kingdom has also its own national flower. The national emblem of England is the rose. The rose was adopted as England ‘s emblem in the 15th century, around the time of the War of the Roses. The symbol of Wales is daffodil, a beautiful white-and-yellow spring flower. And the Scotch consider a thistle to be their symbol. A legend says that this flower has saved an old Scottish castle from enemies, because one of them stepper over a thistle with big thorns and cried out of pain.
Citizens of the UK call their banner the Union Flag or Union Jack. It is blue, red and white. This banner consists of the flags of Scotland, England and Ireland. The flag of Scotland is the Cross of Saint Andrew, the flag of England is the Cross of Saint George and the flag of Ireland is the Cross of Saint Patrick. And one can see that every cross is represented in the Union Jack.