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United Kingdom (UK) - Overview

The United Kingdom is part of the European continent and is surrounded by water. The Atlantic is on one side and the North Sea is on the other, with the Irish Sea in between. The majority of the 224,000 square kilometres is made up of land comprising the countries of England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. As the name implies, the United Kingdom encompasses different nationalities under one umbrella.

The history of the individual countries may date back many centuries; however the United Kingdom only came into being in 1801. At that time the United Kingdom made up the largest part of what is known as the British Isles. The Union Flag symbolises three countries of the United Kingdom: England, Scotland and Northern Ireland. It is also known as the Union Jack. Wales uses the Red Dragon for its flag, although the Union Flag also flies as a symbol of unity.

The population of the United Kingdom has seen much growth since its foundation, and according to the most recent census the population is currently sixty-three million people. Urban areas can be found throughout each individual country as well as expansive rural areas.

England's Capital, Population and Size

England encompasses about half of the land mass of the United Kingdom, with two distinct geographical landscapes. Most of the landscape comprises lowlands, with a smaller portion being mountainous. The Cumbrian Mountains and the Pennines region, which includes Dartmoor and Exmoor, are appealing to many expats. Rivers run through much of the country, but the most well-known is the Thames.

In terms of urban areas, London, Manchester, Yorkshire, Liverpool and Brighton boast the largest populations. In 2012, London's population was 8.3 million, just a small fraction of the 53 million people in the whole of England. London is the capital city and is sometimes referred to as Greater London when including the surrounding boroughs. England borders Wales to the West and Scotland to the North.

Scotland's Capital, Population and Size

Scotland is second in terms of land area, but includes approximately 750 islands. The most notable of these are Orkney, Shetland and the Hebrides. Geological rock structures divide the two terrains of Scotland, with the well-known Highlands in the north and west. The lowlands offer the most populated areas in Glasgow and the capital city, Edinburgh. Edinburgh's population is 495,000; Scotland as a whole has 5.3 million residents according to the 2011 census.

Wales' Capital, Population and Size

Wales constitutes the most mountainous terrain of all the United Kingdom. Since South Wales has fewer high peaks it is the hub of industry and contains the most people. The coastline of Wales is 1,200 kilometres long and presents views of some of the islands off the mainland. It is comprised of 20,000 square kilometres of land, making it the third largest area. Swansea, Cardiff, and Newport are the most densely populated area. Wales has an overall population of 3 million, with 324,800 residents in the capital, Cardiff.

Northern Ireland's Capital, Population and Size

Northern Ireland is full of hills and high peaks and wholly separate from the rest of the United Kingdom as it is on the island of Eire. It shares a border with the Republic of Ireland. Lough Neagh lake is known as the largest lake of the British Isles. Northern Ireland is the fourth country (province) of the UK and also the smallest at approximately 13,000 square kilometres. In Northern Ireland, Belfast, Derry and Lisburn are the largest cities, with between 70,000 and 350,000 people each. The total population of Ireland is 1.8 million, with most of the population in and around its capital, Belfast.

Timing, Language, and Currency of UK

The United Kingdom runs on Greenwich Mean Time; however this changes to British Summer Time during the summer months. BST is GMT +1 hour.

The main language is English, but with other nationalities moving into the region there are many South Asian languages spoken throughout the UK. Polish is currently the third most popular language. Celtic languages can be found in Scotland, Ireland and Wales. Although fewer people continue to speak them, Scottish Gaelic, Welsh, Irish and Cornish are regional languages and recognised under European law.

The United Kingdom’s currency is the Great British Pound or Pound Sterling. British citizens have not converted to the Euro and it is likely that this will be the last country in the European Union to accept a unified currency. There is decreasing sympathy in the United Kingdom for anything pertaining to the EU and a referendum on membership seems likely in the near future.

The four countries are divided by invisible borders with capitals, big cities, and boroughs defining individual locations. The United Kingdom offers a diverse landscape, population and culture.

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