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United Kingdom Information


The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland (the United Kingdom or the UK) is a constitutional monarchy in western Europe.

The Union comprises four constituent nations: England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland. It occupies all of the island of Great Britain, the north-eastern portion of the island of Ireland and most of the remaining British Isles. It counts Ireland, France, Belgium and Netherlands as its nearest neighbours. The Isle of Man and the various Channel Islands are "crown dependencies", linked to the UK by various ties and mutual obligations but not part of it (or of the EU). Gibraltar is a British territory within the EU with its own autonomous government.

The 'Great' in Great Britain is to distinguish it from the other, smaller "Britain" which is Brittany in northwestern France.In French Bretagne and Grande-Bretagne.

The UK today is a diverse patchwork of native and immigrant cultures, possessing a fascinating history and dynamic modern culture, both of which remain hugely influential in the wider world. Although Britannia no longer rules the waves, the UK is still a popular destination for many travellers. The capital city of the United Kingdom (and the largest city) is London.

The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland is a union made up of several 'home nations' and territories:

Great Britain
    England the largest component, in terms both of size and, by far, population.
    Scotland situated in the north of Great Britain.
    Wales located within the largely mountainous western portion of Great Britain.
Ireland
    Northern Ireland occupies the north-eastern part of the island of Ireland.

'Great Britain' (or 'GB', or 'Britain') means Scotland, England, and Wales taken together (as a purely geographical term, GB refers just to the biggest island). GB became the UK when the Irish and British parliaments merged in 1801 to form the "United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland". This was reduced to '... and Northern Ireland' when all but six Irish counties left the Union to form an independent state in the 1920's. However, 'Britain' is often seen as shorthand for the whole of the United Kingdom ("British Government", "British Citizen").

NEVER refer to the UK as "England". Be aware of the difference. They are most emphatically not the same thing, and doing so will annoy (or possibly offend) British people. England is simply a country within the UK like its other component parts. It offends most non-English, British people, in particular, if you refer to "England" and mean Britain or The UK. The term Britain IS however often used to refer to the whole UK in general conversation.

The Isle of Man and the Channel Islands are not strictly part of the UK, but rather are 'Crown Dependencies'. This means that they have their own democratic governments, laws and courts and are not part of the EU; but they are not entirely sovereign either, falling under the British Crown which chooses to have its UK Government manage some of the islands' affairs. The people are British Citizens, but unless they have direct ties with the UK, through a parent, or have lived there for at least 5 years, they are not able to take up work or residence elsewhere in the European Union.

Cities of the UK


London is the capital and largest city of both the United Kingdom and of England, and the largest city in western Europe. Situated on the River Thames in South-East England, Greater London has an official population of roughly 7.5 million people — although the figure of over 14 million for the city's total metropolitan area more accurately reflects London's size and importance. London is historically one of the great, "world cities," and remains a global capital of culture, fashion, finance, politics and trade.

Many cities and towns in the United Kingdom are of interest to travellers outside the capital city of London. Following is an alphabetical selection of nine - others are listed under their specific regions:

    * Belfast - capital of Northern Ireland and becoming a popular tourist destination
    * Birmingham - central England's main city, features great shopping, and is home of the famous Balti and great culture
    * Brighton - a popular sea-side resort near London
    * Bristol - an historical city famed for its Georgian architecture and nautical heritage
    * Cardiff - capital of Wales, host to varied cultural events and many other modern and historical attractions
    * Edinburgh - capital of Scotland, home to the largest arts festival in the world and numerous tourist attractions as well as being the second most visited city in the UK
    * Glasgow - Scotland's largest city, new cultural hotspot, former European City of Culture
    * Manchester - Thriving bohemian music scene, gay quarter, home to the world's only new work arts festival and dozens of tourist attractions as well as being the third most visited city in the UK.
    * Newcastle upon Tyne - largest city in the north east of England with a busy nightlife, a rejuvenated cultural scene and Hadrian's Wall.

Parks


The United Kingdom has an array of National Parks and designated Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty that serve to preserve the country's natural heritage. There are 14 National Parks in total spread across England, Scotland and Wales (9 in England, 2 in Scotland and 3 in Wales) and 49 Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty in England, Wales and Northern Ireland (35 in England, 4 in Wales,