The United Kingdom is made up of four separate countries: England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. More than 61 million people live here.
England, Scotland and Wales share the island of Great Britain, whilst Northern
Ireland occupies the northern end of the adjoining country of Ireland. Great Britain measures a maximum 874 miles (1,407 km) by road from top to bottom. This is from John O’Groats in north-eastern Scotland to Land’s End at the western tip of Cornwall. The total land area is 93,000 square miles (244,820 sq km).
England is the largest of the four nations, and the most densely populated, especially
in the South East. Western areas of Great Britain tend to be mountainous and rugged, and the countryside becomes flatter to the east.
The weather varies according to region, although in general the UK has a mild and damp climate. Winters are wet rather than very cold, and snow is rare.. Scotland and Northern Ireland, the most northern parts of the country, have the coldest winters and most snow. The South is the warmest and driest part of the country. Western areas get the most rainfall. Students should remember that the British climate is changeable â€“ a rainy day can be followed by one which is warm and sunny.
London is the capital of the UK and England, and our biggest city. Edinburgh is the capital of Scotland, Belfast the capital of Northern Ireland and Cardiff the capital of Wales.
English is the official language of the UK. In Wales, around 20 per cent of the population also speaks Welsh, and most official communications, including road signs, are in English and Welsh.
In Northern Ireland about 7 per cent of the population speaks Irish. In Scotland, a small percentage speaks Scottish Gaelic and a third speaks Scots. The most common other languages spoken by people living in the UK include Punjabi, Bengali, Urdu, Sylheti, Cantonese, Greek and Italian.
Students often ask about the different regional accents in the UK. These do exist but the pronunciation differences are smaller than would be found between British, Australian and American English. Teachers and host families will always speak very clearly for students, and they are unlikely to encounter any problems with local accents.