The United Kingdom (UK) is a union of four lands—England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland. The UK also has close political and economic links with self-governing territories such as the Isle of Man in the Irish Sea, and the Channel Islands, off the coast of north-west France. London is the capital city of England, Cardiff of Wales, Edinburgh of Scotland, and Belfast of Northern Ireland.
The United Kingdom has a variety of geographical features. Outside its crowded towns and cities, there is a 1dramatic and beautiful countryside including the narrow valleys of Scotland, the deep valleys and mountains of Wales, and the rolling grassy fields of England and Northern Ireland. Though there are short summers and long winters, the wet climate makes much of the land in England and Northern Ireland green and fertile.
As of 2012, the population of the United Kingdom is 63,047,162. The area of England is 130,420 sq km, while Wales covers 20,770 sq km, Scotland covers 78,387 sq km, and Northern Ireland covers 14,120 sq km The official and spoken language is English and the main religion is Christianity in all the areas. Westminster Abbey of London is the oldest and most famous church. It was founded around 730 AD and rebuilt on a larger scale in the 11th century.
The surrounding seas have played an important role in the history of this island nation. During the 17th and 18th centuries, the British Navy was the most powerful fleet in the world. And for that, the British control of the seas enabled it to build up a vast overseas empire, and become a great trading nation. Even today the UK is a major industrial power, but its political influence on world affairs has declined.
The government of the United Kingdom is a type of Constitutional Monarchy. And, for that, though there is a monarchy, the real power lies with the Parliament. During recent years, many people in Scotland and Wales have campaigned for separate parliaments. In Northern Ireland, some people want to be a part of the Republic of Ireland, Since 1969, this has caused a bitter civil conflict, but a cease-fire in 1994 brought hopes for peace.
Children in the United Kingdom between the ages of 5 and 16 are required to attend school. State schools are maintained by the local government and offer pupils free education up to the age of 18. ‘Public Schools’ are, in fact, private institutions that charge pupils fees to attend. The quality of education in the country is generally high, and the literacy rate is almost universal. The universities of Oxford and Cambridge are England’s oldest and best-known institutions of higher education. And in addition to those the country has many other universities, colleges and adult education facilities. As for sports, football and cricket are the most popular in the country.