Geography of the United Kingdom

The United Kingdom is a sovereign state located off the north-western coast of continental Europe. With a total area of approximately 248,532 square kilometres (95,960 sq mi), the UK occupies the major part of the British Isles archipelago and includes the island of Great Britain, the north-eastern one-sixth of the island of Ireland and many smaller surrounding islands.[1] The mainland areas lie between latitudes 49°N and 59°N (the Shetland Islands reach to nearly 61°N), and longitudes 8°W to 2°E. The Royal Greenwich Observatory, in South East London, is the defining point of the Prime Meridian.

The UK lies between the North Atlantic and the North Sea, and comes within 35 km (22 mi) of the north-west coast of France, from which it is separated by the English Channel. It shares a 499 km international land boundary with the Republic of Ireland.[2][3] The Channel Tunnel bored beneath the English Channel, now links the UK with France.

The British Overseas Territories and Crown Dependencies are covered in their own respective articles, see below.

Coordinates: 54°0′N 2°30′W / 54.000°N 2.500°W

United Kingdom
Satellite image of the United Kingdom
Satellite image of the United Kingdom
Orthographic projection of the United Kingdom
Location Western/Northern Europe
Coordinates 54°0′N 2°30′W / 54.000°N 2.500°W
Area
 - Total 248,532 km2
(95,959 sq mi)
 - Water (%) 1.34
Area rank 80th
Highest elevation 1,345 m (4,413 ft)
Highest point Ben Nevis
Longest river River Severn
Largest lake Lough Neagh
Climate Temperate, with some areas of Scotland being Tundra, and Subarctic

Area

The total area of the United Kingdom according to the Office for National Statistics is 248,532 square kilometres (95,960 sq mi), comprising the island of Great Britain, the northeastern one-sixth of the island of Ireland (Northern Ireland) and many smaller islands. England is the largest country of the United Kingdom, at 132,938 square kilometres (51,330 sq mi) accounting for just over half the total area of the UK. Scotland at 80,239 square kilometres (30,980 sq mi), is second largest, accounting for about a third of the area of the UK. Wales and Northern Ireland are much smaller, covering 21,225 and 14,130 square kilometres (8,200 and 5,460 sq mi) respectively.[4]

The area of the countries of the United Kingdom is set out in the table below. Information about the area of England, the largest country, is also broken down by region.

Rank Name Area
1 England

South West[5]
East of England
South East[6]
East Midlands
Yorkshire and the Humber
North West[7]
West Midlands[8]
North East[9]
London[10]

132,938 km²

23,837 km²
19,120 km²
19,096 km²
15,627 km²
15,420 km²
14,165 km²
12,998 km²
8,592 km²
1,572 km²

2 Scotland 80,239 km²
3 Wales 21,225 km²
4 Northern Ireland 14,130 km²
United Kingdom 248,532 km²
Overseas territories 1,727,570 km²

The British Antarctic Territory, which covers an area of 1,709,400 km2 is geographically the largest of the British Overseas Territories followed by the Falkland Islands which covers an area of 12,173 km2. The remaining twelve overseas territories cover an area 5,997 km2.

Other countries with very similar land areas to the United Kingdom include Guinea (slightly larger), Uganda, Ghana and Romania (all slightly smaller). The UK is the world's 80th largest country by land area and the 10th largest in Europe (if European Russia is included).

Physical geography

Uk topo en
UK's topography

The physical geography of the UK varies greatly. England consists of mostly lowland terrain, with upland or mountainous terrain only found north-west of the Tees-Exe line. The upland areas include the Lake District, the Pennines, North York Moors, Exmoor and Dartmoor. The lowland areas are typically traversed by ranges of low hills, frequently composed of chalk, and flat plains. Scotland is the most mountainous country in the UK and its physical geography is distinguished by the Highland Boundary Fault which traverses the Scottish mainland from Helensburgh to Stonehaven. The faultline separates the two distinctively different regions of the Highlands to the north and west, and the Lowlands to the south and east. The Highlands are predominantly mountainous, containing the majority of Scotland's mountainous landscape, while the Lowlands contain flatter land, especially across the Central Lowlands, with upland and mountainous terrain located at the Southern Uplands. Wales is mostly mountainous, though south Wales is less mountainous than north and mid Wales. Northern Ireland consists of mostly hilly landscape and its geography includes the Mourne Mountains as well as Lough Neagh, at 388 square kilometres (150 sq mi), the largest body of water in the UK.[11]

The overall geomorphology of the UK was shaped by a combination of forces including tectonics and climate change, in particular glaciation in northern and western areas.

The tallest mountain in the UK (and British Isles) is Ben Nevis, in the Grampian Mountains, Scotland. The longest river is the River Severn which flows from Wales into England. The largest lake by surface area is Lough Neagh in Northern Ireland, though Scotland's Loch Ness has the largest volume.

Geology

The geology of the UK is complex and diverse, a result of it being subject to a variety of plate tectonic processes over a very extended period of time. Changing latitude and sea levels have been important factors in the nature of sedimentary sequences, whilst successive continental collisions have affected its geological structure with major faulting and folding being a legacy of each orogeny (mountain-building period), often associated with volcanic activity and the metamorphism of existing rock sequences. As a result of this eventful geological history, the UK shows a rich variety of landscapes.[12]

Precambrian

The oldest rocks in the British Isles are the Lewisian gneisses, metamorphic rocks found in the far north west of Scotland and in the Hebrides (with a few small outcrops elsewhere), which date from at least 2,700 Ma (Ma = million years ago). South and east of the gneisses are a complex mixture of rocks forming the North West Highlands and Grampian Highlands in Scotland. These are essentially the remains of folded sedimentary rocks that were deposited between 1,000 Ma and 670 Ma over the gneiss on what was then the floor of the Iapetus Ocean.

Palaeozoic

At 520 Ma, what is now Great Britain was split between two continents; the north of Scotland was located on the continent of Laurentia at about 20° south of the equator, while the rest of the country was on the continent of Gondwana near the Antarctic Circle. In Gondwana, England and Wales were largely submerged under a shallow sea studded with volcanic islands. The remains of these islands underlie much of central England with small outcrops visible in many places.

About 500 Ma southern Britain, the east coast of North America and south-east Newfoundland broke away from Gondwana to form the continent of Avalonia, which by 440 Ma had drifted to about 30° south. During this period north Wales was subject to volcanic activity. The remains of these volcanoes are still visible, one example of which is Rhobell Fawr dating from 510 Ma. Large quantities of volcanic lava and ash known as the Borrowdale Volcanics covered the Lake District and this can still be seen in the form of mountains such as Helvellyn and Scafell Pike.

Between 425 and 400 Ma Avalonia had joined with the continent of Baltica, and the combined landmass collided with Laurentia at about 20° south, joining the southern and northern halves of Great Britain together. The resulting Caledonian Orogeny produced an Alpine-style mountain range in much of north and west Britain.

The collision between continents continued during the Devonian period, producing uplift and subsequent erosion, resulting in the deposition of numerous sedimentary rock layers in lowlands and seas. The Old Red Sandstone and the contemporary volcanics and marine sediments found in Devon originated from these processes.

Around 360 Ma Great Britain was lying at the equator, covered by the warm shallow waters of the Rheic Ocean, during which time the Carboniferous Limestone was deposited, as found in the Mendip Hills and the Peak District of Derbyshire. Later, river deltas formed and the sediments deposited were colonised by swamps and rain forest. It was in this environment that the Coal Measures were formed, the source of the majority of Britain's extensive coal reserves.

Around 280 Ma the Variscan orogeny mountain-building period occurred, again due to collision of continental plates, causing major deformation in south west England. The general region of Variscan folding was south of an east–west line roughly from south Pembrokeshire to Kent. Towards the end of this period granite was formed beneath the overlying rocks of Devon and Cornwall, now exposed at Dartmoor and Bodmin Moor.

By the end of the Carboniferous period the various continents of the Earth had fused to form the super-continent of Pangaea. Britain was located in the interior of Pangea where it was subject to a hot arid desert climate with frequent flash floods leaving deposits that formed beds of red sedimentary rock.

Mesozoic

As Pangaea drifted during the Triassic, Great Britain moved away from the equator until it was between 20° and 30° north. The remnants of the Variscan uplands in France to the south were eroded down, resulting in layers of the New Red Sandstone being deposited across central England.

Pangaea began to break up at the start of the Jurassic period. Sea levels rose and Britain drifted on the Eurasian Plate to between 31° and 40° north. Much Britain was under water again, and sedimentary rocks were deposited and can now be found underlying much of England from the Cleveland Hills of Yorkshire to the Jurassic Coast in Dorset. These include sandstones, greensands, oolitic limestone of the Cotswold Hills, corallian limestone of the Vale of White Horse and the Isle of Portland. The burial of algae and bacteria below the mud of the sea floor during this time resulted in the formation of North Sea oil and natural gas

Geological map - William Smith, 1815 - BL
1815 Geological by William Smith.

The modern continents having formed, the Cretaceous saw the formation of the Atlantic Ocean, gradually separating northern Scotland from North America. The land underwent a series of uplifts to form a fertile plain. After 20 million years or so, the seas started to flood the land again until much of Britain was again below the sea, though sea levels frequently changed. Chalk and flints were deposited over much of Great Britain, now notably exposed at the White Cliffs of Dover and the Seven Sisters, and also forming Salisbury Plain.

Cenozoic

Between 63 and 52 Ma, the last volcanic rocks in Great Britain were formed. The major eruptions at this time produced the Antrim Plateau, the basaltic columns of the Giant's Causeway and Lundy Island in the Bristol Channel.

The Alpine Orogeny that took place in Europe about 50 Ma, was responsible for the folding of strata in southern England, producing the London Basin syncline, the Weald-Artois Anticline to the south, the North Downs, South Downs and Chiltern Hills.

During the period the North Sea formed, Britain was uplifted. Some of this uplift was along old lines of weakness left from the Caledonian and Variscan Orogenies long before. The uplifted areas were then eroded, and further sediments, such as the London Clay, were deposited over southern England.

The major changes during the last 2 million years were brought about by several recent ice ages. The most severe was the Anglian Glaciation, with ice up to 1,000 m (3,300 ft) thick that reached as far south as London and Bristol. This took place between about 478,000 to 424,000 years ago, and was responsible for the diversion of the River Thames onto its present course. During the most recent Devensian glaciation, which ended a mere 10,000 years ago, the icesheet reached south to Wolverhampton and Cardiff. Among the features left behind by the ice are the fjords of the west coast of Scotland, the U-shaped valleys of the Lake District and erratics (blocks of rock) that have been transported from the Oslo region of Norway and deposited on the coast of Yorkshire.

Amongst the most significant geological features created during the last twelve thousand years are the peat deposits of Scotland, and of coastal and upland areas of England and Wales.

At the present time Scotland is continuing to rise as a result of the weight of Devensian ice being lifted. Southern and eastern England is sinking, generally estimated at 1 mm (1/25 inch) per year, with the London area sinking at double the speed partly due to the continuing compaction of the recent clay deposits.

Mountains and hills

BenNevis2005
At 1,345 metres, Ben Nevis is the highest peak in the UK.

The ten tallest mountains in the UK are all found in Scotland. The highest peaks in each part of the UK are:

The ranges of mountains and hills in the UK include:

The lowest point of the UK is in the Fens of East Anglia, in England, parts of which lie up to 4 metres below sea level.

Rivers and lakes

Main articles

The longest river in the UK is the River Severn (220 mi; 350 km) which flows through both Wales and England.

The longest rivers in the UK contained wholly within each of its constituent nations are:

The largest lakes (by surface area) in the UK by country are:

The deepest lake in the UK is Loch Morar with a maximum depth of 309 metres (Loch Ness is second at 228 metres deep). The deepest lake in England is Wastwater which achieves a depth of 79 metres (259 feet).

Loch Ness is the UK's largest lake in terms of volume.

Artificial waterways

Main articles: Waterways in the United Kingdom, Canals of Great Britain, Dams and reservoirs in United Kingdom

As a result of its industrial history, the United Kingdom has an extensive system of canals, mostly built in the early years of the Industrial Revolution, before the rise of competition from the railways. The United Kingdom also has numerous dams and reservoirs to store water for drinking and industry. The generation of hydroelectric power is rather limited, supplying less than 2% of British electricity, mainly from the Scottish Highlands.

Coastline

United Kingdom maritime claims
United Kingdom maritime claims

The UK has a coastline which measures about 12,429 km.[13] The heavy indentation of the coastline helps to ensure that no location is more than 125 km from tidal waters.

The UK claims jurisdiction over the continental shelf, as defined in continental shelf orders or in accordance with agreed upon boundaries, an exclusive fishing zone of 200 nmi (370.4 km; 230.2 mi), and territorial sea of 12 nmi (22.2 km; 13.8 mi).

Inlets

Headlands

The geology of the United Kingdom is such that there are many headlands along its coast. A list of headlands of the United Kingdom details many of them.

Islands

In total, it is estimated that the UK is made up of over one thousand small islands, the majority located off the north and west coasts of Scotland. About 130 of these are inhabited according to the 2001 Census.

The largest islands by country are Lewis and Harris in Scotland (841 square mi), Wales' Anglesey (276 square mi), the Isle of Wight in England (147.09 square mi), and Rathlin Island in Northern Ireland (roughly 6 square mi);

Climate

The climate of the UK is generally temperate, although significant local variation occurs, particularly as a result of altitude and distance from the coast. In general the south of the country is warmer than the north, and the west wetter than the east. Due to the warming influence of the Gulf Stream, the UK is significantly warmer than some other locations at similar latitude, such as Newfoundland.

The prevailing winds are southwesterly, from the North Atlantic Current. More than 50% of the days are overcast.[14] There are few natural hazards, although there can be strong winds and floods, especially in winter.

Average annual rainfall varies from over 3,000 mm (118.1 in) in the Scottish Highlands down to 553 mm (21.8 in) in Cambridge. The county of Essex is one of the driest in the UK, with an average annual rainfall of around 600 mm (23.6 in), although it typically rains on over 100 days per year. In some years rainfall in Essex can be below 450 mm (17.7 in), less than the average annual rainfall in Jerusalem and Beirut.

The highest temperature recorded in the UK was 38.5 °C (101.3 °F) at Brogdale, near Faversham, in the county of Kent, on 10 August 2003. The lowest was −27.2 °C (−17.0 °F) recorded at Braemar in the Grampian Mountains, Scotland, on 11 February 1895 and 10 January 1982 and Altnaharra, also in Scotland, on 30 December 1995.

Human geography

Uk-map
The United Kingdom is composed of four parts: England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales.
UnitedKingdomCitiesandTownsOMC
The United Kingdom's cities, other large centres, and selected smaller places

Political geography

National government

The UK is governed as a whole by the Parliament of the United Kingdom. Of the four countries that make the UK, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have devolved administrations and parliaments/assembly:

England has no devolved system of governmentthat is, the Parliament of the United Kingdom serves as (and historically was) the English Parliament. It is governed by UK government ministers and legislated for by the UK parliament. Within England, London has a devolved assembly but proposals for elected Regional Assemblies in England were rejected in the first referendum covering North East England. See Government of England.

The UK (specifically, Northern Ireland) has an international land boundary with the Republic of Ireland of 499 km.[2][3] There is also a boundary between the jurisdiction of France and the UK on the Channel Tunnel.

Local government

Each part of the UK is subdivided in further local governmental regions:

Historically the UK was divided into counties or shires: administrative areas through which all civil responsibilities of the government were passed. Each county or shire had a county town as its administrative centre and was divided into individual parishes that were defined along ecclesiastic boundaries.

Between 1889 (1890 in Scotland) and 1974, the political boundaries were based on the traditional counties, but due to changes in population centres, the traditional counties became impractical as local government areas in certain highly urbanised areas. The Local Government Act 1972 created a new system of administrative counties, designed to take account of the widely differing populations across different parts of the country.

In the 1990s further population growth led to more political changes on a local level. Unitary authorities were formed across the entirety of Scotland and Wales, and in larger cities in England. Many unpopular administrative counties were also abolished at this time, leading to a mixture of two-tier and single-purpose authorities. Further reorganisations are planned if and when regional assemblies in England are revisited in the future.

Economic geography

The economic geography of the UK reflects not only its current position in the global economy, but its long history both as a trading nation and an imperial power.

The UK led the industrial revolution and its highly urban character is a legacy of this, with all its major cities being current or former centres of various forms of manufacturing. However, this in turn was built on its exploitation of natural resources, especially coal and iron ore.

Primary industry

The UK's primary industry was once dominated by the coal industry, heavily concentrated in the north, the Midlands and south Wales. This is all but gone and the major primary industry is North Sea oil. Its activity is concentrated on the UK Continental Shelf to the north-east of Scotland.

Manufacturing

The UK's heavy manufacturing drove the industrial revolution. A map of the major UK cities gives a good picture of where this activity occurred, in particular Belfast, Birmingham, Glasgow, Liverpool, London, Manchester, Newcastle and Sheffield. Today there is no heavy manufacturing industry in which UK-based firms can be considered world leaders. However, areas of the UK still have a notable manufacturing base, including the Midlands which remains a strong manufacturing centre, and the North West which accounts for 60% of the United Kingdom's manufacturing output.[15] More recently, high technology firms have concentrated largely along the M4 motorway, partly because of access to Heathrow Airport, but also because of agglomeration economies.

Finance and services

Once, every large city had a stock exchange. Now, the UK financial industry is concentrated overwhelmingly in the City of London and Canary Wharf, with back office and administrative operations often dispersed around the south of England. London is one of the world's great financial centres and is usually referred to as a world city. There is also a significant legal and ebusiness industry in Leeds.

Regional disparity

The effect of changing economic fortune has contributed to the creation of the so-called North-South divide, in which decaying industrial and ex-industrial areas of Northern England, Scotland and Wales contrast with the wealthy, finance and technology-led southern economy. This has led successive governments to develop regional policy to try to rectify the imbalance. However, this is not to say that the north-south divide is uniform; some of the worst pockets of deprivation can be found in London, whilst parts of Cheshire and North Yorkshire are very wealthy. Nor is the North-South divide limited to the economic sphere; cultural and political divisions weigh heavily too.

Natural resources

Historically, much of the United Kingdom was forested. Since prehistoric times, man has deforested much of the United Kingdom.

Agriculture is intensive, highly mechanised, and efficient by European standards, producing about 60% of food needs with only 1% of the labour force. It contributes around 2% of GDP. Around two thirds of production is devoted to livestock, one third to arable crops.

In 1993, it was estimated that land use was:

The UK has a variety of natural resources including:

The UK has large coal, natural gas, and oil reserves; primary energy production accounts for 10% of GDP, one of the highest shares of any industrial nation. Due to the island location of the UK, the country has great potential for generating electricity from wave power and tidal power, although these have not yet been exploited on a commercial basis.

Environment

Current issues

England is one of the most densely populated countries/regions in the world, and the most densely populated major nation in Europe.[16] The high population density (especially in the southeast of England) coupled with a changing climate, is likely to put extreme pressure on the United Kingdom's water resources in the future.[17]

The United Kingdom is reducing greenhouse gas emissions. It has met Kyoto Protocol target of a 12.5% reduction from 1990 levels and intends to meet the legally binding target of a 20% cut in emissions by 2010. By 2015, to recycle or compost at least 33% of household waste. Between 1998-99 and 1999–2000, household recycling increased from 8.8% to 10.3% respectively.

International agreements

The United Kingdom is a party to many international agreements, including: Air Pollution, Air Pollution-Nitrogen Oxides, Air Pollution-Sulphur 94, Air Pollution-Volatile Organic Compounds, Antarctic-Environmental Protocol, Antarctic-Marine Living Resources, Antarctic Seals, Antarctic Treaty, Biodiversity, Climate Change, Climate Change-Kyoto Protocol, Desertification, Endangered Species, Environmental Modification, Hazardous Wastes, Law of the Sea, Marine Dumping, Marine Life Conservation, Nuclear Test Ban, Ozone Layer Protection, Ship Pollution, Tropical Timber 83, Tropical Timber 94, Wetlands and Whaling.

The UK has signed, but not ratified, the international agreement on Air Pollution-Persistent Organic Pollutants.

Geography of dependent territories

British Overseas Territories (at the same geographic scale)
Map of the UK, overseas territories and crown dependencies at the same geographic scale

Crown dependencies

Overseas territories

See also

References

  1. ^ Oxford English Dictionary: "British Isles: a geographical term for the islands comprising Great Britain and Ireland with all their offshore islands including the Isle of Man and the Channel Islands."
  2. ^ a b Ordnance Survey of Northern Ireland, 1999
  3. ^ a b MFPP Working Paper No. 2, "The Creation and Consolidation of the Irish Border" by KJ Rankin and published in association with Institute for British-Irish Studies, University College Dublin and Institute for Governance, Queen's University, Belfast (also printed as IBIS working paper no. 48)
  4. ^ "The Countries of the UK". Office for National Statistics. Archived from the original on 8 January 2016. Retrieved 15 October 2017.
  5. ^ "The South West – Key Facts". www.gosw.gov.uk. Government Office for the South West. Archived from the original on 22 March 2007. Retrieved 18 April 2007.
  6. ^ "Facts and Figures about the South East". www.gose.gov.uk. Government Office for the South East. Archived from the original on 28 September 2007. Retrieved 18 April 2007.
  7. ^ "Regional Profile". www.gonw.gov.uk. Government Office for the North West. Archived from the original on 3 May 2007. Retrieved 18 April 2007.
  8. ^ "Regional Profile". www.gowm.gov.uk. Government Office for the West Midlands. Archived from the original on 21 September 2007. Retrieved 18 April 2007.
  9. ^ "Regional Profile". www.gos.gov.uk/gone/. Government Office for the North East. Archived from the original on 28 September 2007. Retrieved 18 April 2007.
  10. ^ "Our Region". www.gol.gov.uk. Government Office for London. Archived from the original on 20 September 2007. Retrieved 18 April 2007.
  11. ^ "Geography of Northern Ireland". University of Ulster. Retrieved 25 September 2017.
  12. ^ Toghill, Peter (2000). The Geology of Britain: An Introduction. Shrewsbury: Swan Hill Press. ISBN 1-85310-890-1.
  13. ^ The Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (2009). "Factsheet Marine Conservation Zones" (PDF). www.defra.gov.uk. DEFRA. Archived from the original (PDF) on 23 April 2014. Retrieved 21 April 2014.
  14. ^ "25 September 2017".
  15. ^ "1,800 new jobs to be created at Manchester Airport". ITV News. 22 August 2012. Retrieved 25 September 2017.
  16. ^ Khan, Urmee (16 September 2008). "England is most crowded country in Europe". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 25 September 2017.
  17. ^ McKie, Robin (22 January 2012). "Urgent action needed to prevent England's rivers drying up". The Observer. The Guardian. Retrieved 25 September 2017.

External links

Administrative geography of the United Kingdom

The administrative geography of the United Kingdom is complex, multi-layered and non-uniform. The United Kingdom, a sovereign state to the northwest of continental Europe, consists of England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales. For local government in the United Kingdom, England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales each have their own system of administrative and geographic demarcation. Consequently, there is "no common stratum of administrative unit encompassing the United Kingdom".Because there is no written document that comprehensively encompasses the British constitution, and owing to a convoluted history of the formation of the United Kingdom, a variety of terms is used to refer to its constituent parts, which are sometimes called the four countries of the United Kingdom. The four are sometimes collectively referred to as the Home Nations, particularly in sporting contexts. Although the four countries are important for legal and governmental purposes, they are not comparable to administrative subdivisions of most other countries.

Historically, the subnational divisions of the UK have been the county and the ecclesiastical parish, whilst following the emergence of a unified parliament of the United Kingdom, the ward and constituency have been pan-UK political subdivisions. More contemporary divisions include Lieutenancy areas and the statistical territories defined with the modern NUTS:UK and ISO 3166-2:GB systems.

British Isles

The British Isles are a group of islands in the North Atlantic off the north-western coast of continental Europe that consist of the islands of Great Britain, Ireland, the Isle of Man, the Hebrides and over six thousand smaller isles. They have a total area of about 315,159 km2 and a combined population of almost 72 million, and include two sovereign states, the Republic of Ireland (which covers roughly five-sixths of Ireland), and the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. The islands of Alderney, Jersey, Guernsey, and Sark, and their neighbouring smaller islands, are sometimes also taken to be part of the British Isles, even though, as islands off the coast of France, they do not form part of the archipelago.The oldest rocks in the group are in the north west of Scotland, Ireland, and North Wales and are 2.7 billion years old. During the Silurian period, the north-western regions collided with the south-east, which had been part of a separate continental landmass. The topography of the islands is modest in scale by global standards. Ben Nevis rises to an elevation of only 1,345 metres (4,413 ft), and Lough Neagh, which is notably larger than other lakes in the island group, covers 390 square kilometres (151 sq mi). The climate is temperate marine, with mild winters and warm summers. The North Atlantic drift brings significant moisture and raises temperatures 11 °C (20 °F) above the global average for the latitude. This led to a landscape which was long dominated by temperate rainforest, although human activity has since cleared the vast majority of forest cover. The region was re-inhabited after the last glacial period of Quaternary glaciation, by 12,000 BC, when Great Britain was still part of a peninsula of the European continent. Ireland, which became an island by 12,000 BC, was not inhabited until after 8000 BC. Great Britain became an island by 5600 BC.

Hiberni (Ireland), Pictish (northern Britain) and Britons (southern Britain) tribes, all speaking Insular Celtic, inhabited the islands at the beginning of the 1st millennium AD. Much of Brittonic-occupied Britain was conquered by the Roman Empire from AD 43. The first Anglo-Saxons arrived as Roman power waned in the 5th century, and eventually dominated the bulk of what is now England. Viking invasions began in the 9th century, followed by more permanent settlements and political change, particularly in England. The Norman conquest of England in 1066 and the later Angevin partial conquest of Ireland from 1169 led to the imposition of a new Norman ruling elite across much of Britain and parts of Ireland. By the Late Middle Ages, Great Britain was separated into the Kingdoms of England and Kingdom of Scotland, while control in Ireland fluxed between Gaelic kingdoms, Hiberno-Norman lords and the English-dominated Lordship of Ireland, soon restricted only to The Pale. The 1603 Union of the Crowns, Acts of Union 1707 and Acts of Union 1800 attempted to consolidate Britain and Ireland into a single political unit, the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, with the Isle of Man and the Channel Islands remaining as Crown Dependencies. The expansion of the British Empire and migrations following the Irish Famine and Highland Clearances resulted in the dispersal of some of the islands' population and culture throughout the world, and a rapid depopulation of Ireland in the second half of the 19th century. Most of Ireland seceded from the United Kingdom after the Irish War of Independence and the subsequent Anglo-Irish Treaty (1919–1922), with six counties remaining in the UK as Northern Ireland.

The term "British Isles" is controversial in Ireland, where there are nationalist objections to its usage. The Government of Ireland does not officially recognise the term, and its embassy in London discourages its use. Britain and Ireland is used as an alternative description, and Atlantic Archipelago has also seen limited use in academia.

Canals of the United Kingdom

The canals of the United Kingdom are a major part of the network of inland waterways in the United Kingdom. They have a colourful history, from use for irrigation and transport, through becoming the focus of the Industrial Revolution, to today's role of recreational boating. Despite a period of abandonment, today the canal system in the United Kingdom is again in increasing use, with abandoned and derelict canals being reopened, and the construction of some new routes. Most canals in England and Wales are maintained by the Canal & River Trust, previously British Waterways, but a minority of canals are privately owned.

The majority of canals in the United Kingdom can accommodate boats with a length of between 55 and 72 feet (17 and 22 m) and are now used primarily for leisure. There are a number of canals which are far larger than this, including New Junction Canal and the Gloucester and Sharpness Canal, which can accommodate boats with a length of up to 230 feet (70 m). One purpose-built ship canal in the United Kingdom, the Manchester Ship Canal, is incomparable to any other. Upon opening in 1894, it was the largest ship canal in the world, permitting ships with a length of up to 600 feet (183 m) to navigate its 36-mile (58 km) route.

Centre points of the United Kingdom

There has long been debate over the exact location of the geographical centre of the United Kingdom, and its constituent countries, due to the complexity and method of the calculation, such as whether to include offshore islands, and the fact that erosion will cause the position to change over time. There are two main methods of calculating this "centre": either as the centroid of the two-dimensional shape made by the country (projected to the Airy ellipsoid then flattened using the Transverse Mercator projection), or as the point farthest from the boundary of the country (either the sea, or, in the case of constituent countries, a land border). These two methods give quite different answers.

Countries of the United Kingdom

The United Kingdom (UK) comprises four countries: England, Scotland and Wales (which collectively make up Great Britain) and Northern Ireland (which is variously described as a country, province or region).Within the United Kingdom, a unitary sovereign state, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales have gained a degree of autonomy through the process of devolution. The UK Parliament and British Government deal with all reserved matters for Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales, but not in general matters that have been devolved to the Northern Ireland Assembly, Scottish Parliament and National Assembly for Wales. Additionally, devolution in Northern Ireland is conditional on co-operation between the Northern Ireland Executive and the Government of Ireland (see North/South Ministerial Council) and the British Government consults with the Government of Ireland to reach agreement on some non-devolved matters for Northern Ireland (see British–Irish Intergovernmental Conference). England, comprising the majority of the population and area of the United Kingdom, remains fully the responsibility of the UK Parliament centralised in London.

England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales are not themselves listed in the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) list of countries. However the ISO list of the subdivisions of the UK, compiled by British Standards and the UK's Office for National Statistics, uses "country" to describe England, Scotland and Wales. Northern Ireland, in contrast, is described as a "province" in the same lists. Each has separate national governing bodies for sports and compete separately in many international sporting competitions, including the Commonwealth Games. Northern Ireland also forms joint All-Island sporting bodies with the Republic of Ireland for most sports, including rugby union.The Channel Islands and the Isle of Man are dependencies of the Crown and are not part of the UK. Similarly, the British overseas territories, remnants of the British Empire, are not part of the UK.

Historically, from 1801, following the Acts of Union, until 1921 the whole island of Ireland was a country within the UK. Ireland was split into two separate jurisdictions in 1921: Southern Ireland and Northern Ireland. Southern Ireland left the United Kingdom, secured full independence and became the Republic of Ireland in 1919.

Economic geography of the United Kingdom

The economic geography of the United Kingdom reflects its high position in the current economic league tables, as well as reflecting its long history as a trading nation and as an imperial power. This in turn was built on exploitation of natural resources such as coal and iron ore.

Much has changed since Bevan's speech (below) in 1945, with the coalfields largely deserted and the Empire relinquished. With its dominant position gone, the UK economic geography is increasingly shaped by the one constant: it is a trading nation.

Extra-parochial area

In England and Wales, an extra-parochial area, extra-parochial place or extra-parochial district was a geographically defined area considered to be outside any ecclesiastical or civil parish. Anomalies in the parochial system, they had no church or clergymen and were therefore exempt from payment of poor or church rates and usually tithes. They were formed for a variety of reasons, often because an area was unpopulated or unsuitable for agriculture, but also around institutions and buildings or natural resources. Extra-parochial areas caused considerable problems when they became inhabited as they did not provide religious facilities, local governance or provide for the relief of the poor. Their status was often ambiguous and there was demand for extra-parochial areas to operate more like parishes. Following the introduction of the New Poor Law, extra-parochial areas were effectively made civil parishes by the Extra-Parochial Places Act 1857 and were eliminated by the Poor Law Amendment Act 1868. This was achieved either by being integrated with a neighbouring or surrounding parish, or by becoming a separate civil parish if the population was high enough.

Geograph Britain and Ireland

Geograph Britain and Ireland is a web-based project, initiated in March 2005, to create a freely accessible archive of geographically located photographs of Great Britain and Ireland.

Photographs in the Geograph collection are chosen to illustrate significant or typical features of each 1 km × 1 km (100 ha) grid square in the Ordnance Survey National Grid and the Irish national grid reference system.

There are 331,957 such grid squares containing at least some land (at low tide). Each page uses a Geo microformat.

Geographs are being collected for all parts of Great Britain and Ireland. The Channel Islands fall outside Britain's grid system, but may be geographed using their local UTM grid.

The project is sponsored by Ordnance Survey, and extracts from the OS Landranger 1:50,000 scale maps illustrate the grid square pages.

Geograph Project Limited, is a Charity Registered in England and Wales, and the name Geograph is trademarked.

Hardy (hill)

A Hardy is any one of a category of mountain, hill or high point in the United Kingdom which is the highest point in a hill range; island over 1,000 acres (400 ha); or top-tier administrative area.

List of extreme points of the United Kingdom

This is a list of the extreme points of the United Kingdom: the points that are farther north, south, east or west than any other location. Traditionally the extent of the island of Great Britain has stretched "from Land's End to John o' Groats" (that is, from the extreme southwest of England to the far northeast of Scotland).

This article does not include references to the Channel Islands because they are Crown dependencies, not constituent parts of the United Kingdom.

Northernmost point – Out Stack, Shetland at 60°51′N 0°52′W

Northernmost settlement – Skaw, Unst, Shetland Islands at 60°49′N 0°47′W

Southernmost point – Pednathise Head, Western Rocks, Isles of Scilly at 49°51′N 6°24′W

Southernmost settlement – St Agnes, Isles of Scilly at 49°53′N 6°20′W

Westernmost point – Rockall at 57°35′N 13°41′W, which was only incorporated into Scotland in the 20th century. If Rockall is ignored, Soay, St Kilda, at 57.830°N 8.638°W / 57.830; -8.638 is the westernmost point.

Westernmost settlement – Belleek, County Fermanagh at 54°28′N 8°9.8′W. Until 1930, the westernmost settlement was Hirta, on the island of St Kilda, but it is now abandoned; the island now has a military base, staffed during the summer months.

Easternmost point – Lowestoft Ness, Suffolk, at 52°29′N 1°46′E

Easternmost settlement – Lowestoft, Suffolk, at 52°28′N 1°45′E

Highest point – Ben Nevis, Scotland, at 1345 m 56.797°N 5.004°W / 56.797; -5.004

Lowest point – Holme Fen, Cambridgeshire, 3 m below sea level at 52°29′N 0°13′W

List of urban areas in the United Kingdom

This is a list of the most populous urban areas in the 2011 census, as defined by the Office for National Statistics (ONS), although the basis for the sourced list is Citypopulation.de because its data is more readily available.

The methodology used by ONS in 2011 is set out in 2011 Built-up Areas – Methodology and Guidance, published in June 2013. When ONS reported the results of the 2011 UK census, it used the term "built-up area" rather than the term "urban area" as used in previous censuses. ONS states, however, that the criteria used to define "built-up area" have not changed:

the definition follows a ‘bricks and mortar’ approach, with areas defined as built-up land with a minimum area of 20 hectares (200,000 m2), while settlements within 200 metres of each other are linked. Built-up area sub-divisions are also identified to provide greater detail in the data, especially in the larger conurbations.

In reporting the 2001 census, ONS gave a clearer definition of the term "built-up" as follows:

This comprises permanent structures and the land on which they are situated, including land enclosed by or closely associated with such structures; transportation corridors such as roads, railways and canals which have built up land on one or both sides, or which link built-up sites which are less than 200 metres apart; transportation features such as airports and operational airfields, railway yards, motorway service areas and car parks; mine buildings, excluding mineral workings and quarries; and any area completely surrounded by builtup sites. Areas such as playing fields and golf courses are excluded unless completely surrounded by builtup sites...

Local government in the United Kingdom

Local government in the United Kingdom has origins that pre-date the United Kingdom itself, as each of the four countries of the United Kingdom has its own separate system. For an overview, see Administrative geography of the United Kingdom. For details, see:

Local government in England

Local government in Northern Ireland

Local government in Scotland

Local government in WalesFor the history of local government in each country, see:

History of local government in England

History of local government in Northern Ireland

History of local government in Scotland

History of local government in WalesFor local government entities in each country, see

Category:Local authorities of England

Category:Local authorities of Northern Ireland

Category:Local authorities of Scotland

Category:Local authorities of Wales

Ordnance Survey National Grid

The Ordnance Survey National Grid reference system is a system of geographic grid references used in Great Britain, distinct from latitude and longitude. It is often called British National Grid (BNG).The Ordnance Survey (OS) devised the national grid reference system, and it is heavily used in their survey data, and in maps based on those surveys, whether published by the Ordnance Survey or by commercial map producers. Grid references are also commonly quoted in other publications and data sources, such as guide books and government planning documents.

A number of different systems exist that can provide grid references for locations within the British Isles: this article describes the system created solely for Great Britain and its outlying islands (including the Isle of Man); the Irish grid reference system was a similar system created by the Ordnance Survey of Ireland and the Ordnance Survey of Northern Ireland for the island of Ireland. The Universal Transverse Mercator coordinate system (UTM) is used to provide grid references for worldwide locations, and this is the system commonly used for the Channel Islands and Ireland (since 2001). European-wide agencies also use UTM when mapping locations, or may use the Military Grid Reference System (MGRS) system, or variants of it. OSGB uses Orthorectified images of many temporal resolution for one area.

Registration county

A registration county was, in Great Britain and Ireland, a statistical unit used for the registration of births, deaths and marriages and for the output of census information. In Scotland registration counties are used for land registration purposes.

Royal Geographical Society

The Royal Geographical Society (with the Institute of British Geographers) is the UK's learned society and professional body for geography, founded in 1830 for the advancement of geographical sciences. Today, it is the leading centre for geographers and geographical learning. The Society has over 16,500 members and its work reaches millions of people each year through publications, research groups and lectures.

Southwest Approaches

The Southwest Approaches is the name given to the offshore waters to the southwest of Great Britain. The area includes the Celtic Sea, the Bristol Channel and sea areas off southwest Ireland. The area is bordered on the north by the St. George's Channel, on the southeast by the English Channel, and on the west by the Atlantic Ocean.

Travel to work area

A Travel to Work Area or TTWA is a statistical tool used by UK Government agencies and local authorities, especially by the Department for Work and Pensions and Jobcentres, to indicate an area where the population would generally commute to a larger town, city or conurbation for the purposes of employment.

Triangulation station

A triangulation station, also known as a triangulation pillar, trigonometrical station, trigonometrical point, trig station, trig beacon, or trig point, and sometimes informally as a trig, is a fixed surveying station, used in geodetic surveying and other surveying projects in its vicinity. The nomenclature varies regionally: they are generally known as trigonometrical or triangulation stations in North America, trig points in the United Kingdom, trig pillars in Ireland, trig stations or points in Australia and New Zealand, and trig beacons in South Africa; triangulation pillar is the more formal term for the concrete columns found in the UK.

Waterways in the United Kingdom

Waterways in the United Kingdom is a link page for any waterway, river, canal, firth or estuary in the United Kingdom.

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