Great Britain Country overview
Great Britain (United Kingdom) is an island nation in northwestern Europe, separated from the continent by the English Channel and the North Sea. It represents the union of the historical countries: England, Scotland and Wales and Northern Ireland.
The country, relatively small in area, is very varied in terms of the type of geological structure and landscape. The landscape in most of central and southern England is only slightly undulating, whereas in northern England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland it is very rugged and mountainous.
According to intershippingrates, Scotland and the surrounding islands – the Hebrides, Orkney and Shetland – form the northernmost part of Britain. The rugged surface of Scotland consists of four regions: the Caledonian Mountains (Northwest Highlands) are separated from the largest mountain range, the Grampians, by the Caledonian Canal with the famous Loch Ness lake. Above the southern end of the channel rises the highest mountain of the British Isles, Ben Nevis (1343 m). The lowlands of central Scotland rise southwards into the South Scottish Highlands. The Cheviot Hills in the very south of Scotland form a natural border with England.
South of them, the Pennines stretch in the meridional direction to central England. In the northwest lie the glaciers of the Cumbric Mountains (978 m) and the famous lake area (Lake District National Park). In the northeast lies the low Yorkshire heathland. In central England, south of the Pennines, the landscape is rolling, hilly, while the east of the country is mostly flat. The Thames, Britain’s longest river, rises in the Cotswold Hills in south-central England, flows south-east, passes through London and empties into the North Sea in a wide funnel. The uplands of the Cornish peninsula cover the other protected moors of Dartmoor and Exmoor.
The most mountainous area of the islands is Wales, washed by the Irish Sea to the north, the St. George’s Channel to the west and Bristol Bay to the south. Inner Wales is filled by the Cambrian Mountains with the highest mountain, Snowdon (1085m) in the northwest. The Severn, Britain’s second longest river, rises in mid-Wales and flows into the deeply incised Bristol Bay.
On the other side of the Irish Sea is Ireland. Only the northeastern 1/6 of the island belongs to Britain. North of Belfast, the provincial capital, are the Antrim Hills. Remarkable chalk and basalt cliffs have formed on their sea side. To the west of Belfast lies Lough Neagh, Britain’s largest lake.
Although the islands are located quite far north, their climate is mild, oceanic with relatively small temperature fluctuations (10-15 ‘C between the temperatures of the coldest and warmest months). The climate is mainly influenced by the warm Gulf Stream and the meeting of warm air from West Africa (from the Azores above) with cold and moist air from Iceland and the Arctic. The result is strong winds and heavy rainfall. The Windward Hebrides and north-west Scotland are the wettest places in Europe (4000mm of rainfall).
Flora and fauna
More than five thousand years ago, Britain was densely covered with deciduous forests, of which only islands have survived to the present day. Nevertheless, forests (mostly newly planted) cover 10% of the country’s surface. A common landscape type in Scotland, Northern Ireland and the uplands of northern England and Wales is moorland. In the lowlands, the original plant cover and forests have practically disappeared. The open areas are covered by vast, always green pastures.
Larger mammals such as wolves were exterminated or disappeared long ago when they lost their natural habitat. The largest mammal on the islands today is the deer, which lives in the Scottish Highlands. Smaller species include the fox, badger, otter and weasel. Birds are abundant and varied in species.
Modern parliamentary democracy, the industrial revolution and the welfare state were born in the British Isles. English, which is the mother tongue of about 350 million people around the world and another billion use it as a second language of communication, is no less beneficial.