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Big Ben, London, United Kingdom. Author and Copyright Marco Ramerini
Big Ben, London, United Kingdom. Author Marco Ramerini

United Kingdom: the largest maritime empire in history

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The United Kingdom was for centuries the main maritime and colonial empire of modern history. This nation has greatly influenced the history of the planet of the last centuries. It is made up of a large island, Great Britain, which lies off the coast of the English Channel between the Atlantic Ocean and the North Sea and of one fifth of the island of Ireland.

The larger island Britain is divided into three main regions: to the south is England, to the north is Scotland and to the west is Wales. Some islands around Britain include the Hebrides in the north-west and the Orkney and Shetland islands, belonging to the United Kingdom.

To the west Ireland is located, whose north-eastern part, the so-called Northern Ireland, is also a part of the United Kingdom. Among other British islands there are the coastal islands of Wight, Anglesey and Scilly, the Isle of Man in the Irish Sea and the Channel Islands between Great Britain and France.


The United Kingdom has also 14 Overseas Territories, which are the last remains of the largest colonial empire in history. These areas are found on every continent. In Central America there are the island of Anguilla, the British Virgin Islands, Montserrat, Turks and Caicos Islands, and the Cayman Islands. In South America the Falkland Islands, South Georgia and South Sandwich Islands and in North America the Bermudas are to be found.

Between Africa and South America in the Atlantic Ocean you find the islands of St. Helena, Ascension and Tristan da Cunha (St. Helena and Dependencies). In the Indian Ocean the Chagos islands are located, also known as the British Indian Ocean Territory (BIOT). In Western Asia there are two Sovereign Base Areas on Cyprus and in Europe you find Gibraltar. A British possession in Oceania is the remote island of Pitcairn. Finally there is the British Antarctic Territory in Antarctica.


The United Kingdom is characterized by a very rugged coast line with peninsulas separated by deep bays. These bays have the character of estuaries (Thames and Humber) or consist of funnel-shaped narrow and oblong bays, called firths. The northern and western areas of the country are predominantly mountainous, while the South-East England is made ​​up of plains. Among the major mountain ranges we can quote the North-West Highlands, the Grampians, the Southern Uplands, the Cumberland Mountains and the Pennines. They all present, however, moderate heights. The highest peak is Ben Nevis in Scotland with 1,343 metres.

There are numerous rivers full of water with regular seasonal flows, but short course due to the shape of the British territory. The most important rivers are the Thames, the Mersey, the Clyde and the Severn. Characteristic of Scotland are long, narrow lakes called lochs. The best known one is the famous Loch Ness with 56 km² with a pretended prehistoric monster. The less known Loch Lomond with 56 km² is the largest of Great Britain, but the largest lake of the United Kingdom is located in Northern Ireland: the Lough Neagh with 392 sq km.

The climate of the United Kingdom.

English text correction by Dietrich Köster. 

  • Area: 242,521 sq km
  • Population: 59,755,700: England 49.997.100, Wales 2.946.200, Scotland 5.114.600, Northern Ireland 1.697.800
  • State Capital: London
  • Oficial Languages: English is the national official language. Welsh, official in Wales, Gaelic, official in Scotland.
  • Religion: Mainly Protestants 53,4%: Anglicans in England and Presbyterians in Scotland, Roman Catholics 9,8%, Muslims 2,6%, Buddhists, Hindus, Jews and Sikhs.
  • Currency: Britain’s currency unit is the Great Britain Pound Sterling (GBP)
  • Time Zone: The time is Coordinated Universal Time (UTC). British Summer Daylight Saving Time  (UTC+1). 



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