The longest distance on the mainland is from John O’Groats on the north coast of Scotland to Land’s End in the south-west corner of England. It is about 870 miles.
Northern Ireland and Scotland have their own banknotes, which are valid everywhere in the UK
The English language has many accents and dialects.
In Wales, many people speak Welsh.
In Scotland, Gaelic is spoken in some parts of the Highlands and Islands, and in Northern Ireland some people speak Irish Gaelic.
|Population growth in the UK|
|1600||Just over 4 million|
|2005||Just under 60 million|
|2010||Just over 62 million|
England more or less consistently makes up 84% of the total population, Wales around 5%, Scotland just over 8%, and Northern Ireland less than 3%.
In the UK, 59% of people identified themselves as Christian, Muslim (4.8%), Hindu (1.5%), Sikh (0.8%), Jewish or Buddhist (both less than 0.5%), 25% of people said that they had no religion.
Church of England – the Anglican Church – in other countries and the Episcopal Church in Scotland and the United States. The monarch is the head of the Church of England. The spiritual leader of the Church of England is the Archbishop of Canterbury.
Church of Scotland – Presbyterian Church. It is governed by ministers and elders. The chairperson – the Moderator.
There is no established Church in Wales or Northern Ireland.
- 1 March: St David’s Day, Wales
- 17 March: St Patrick’s Day, Northern Ireland, official holiday
- 23 April: St George’s Day, England
- 30 November: St Andrew’s Day, Scotland, official holiday
Christmas Day, 25 December, roast turkey, Christmas pudding and mince pies.
The 40 days before Easter are known as Lent. The day before Lent starts is called Shrove Tuesday, or Pancake Day.
Diwali – Festival of Lights, celebrated by Hindus and Sikhs, falls in October or November and lasts for 5 days.
Hannukah is in November or December and is celebrated by Jews for 8 days.
Eid a-Fitr celebrates the end of Ramadan, when Muslims have fasted for a month.
Vaisakhi (also spelled Baisakhi) is a Sikh festival celebrated on 14 April each year.
In Scotland, 31 December is called Hogmanay.
Valentine’s Day, 14 February.
April Fool’s Day, 1 April.
Mothering Sunday (or Mother’s day) is the Sunday three weeks before Easter.
Father’s Day is the third Sunday in June.
Halloween, 31 October.
Bonfire Night, 5 November. The origin of this celebration was an event in 1605 when a group of Catholics led by Guy Fawkes failed in their plan to kill the Protestant king with a bomb in the Houses of Parliament.
Remembrance Day, 11 November. At 11.00 am there is a two-minute silence and wreaths are laid at the Cenotaph in Whitehall, London.
The UK has hosted the Olympic games in 1908, 1948 and 2012 (Stratford, East London)
The Paralympics have their origin in the work of Dr Sir Ludwig Guttman, a German refugee, at the Stoke Mandeville hospital in Buckinghamshire.
Notable British sportsmen and women
Bannister – first man in the world to run a mile in under 4 minutes, in 1954.
Stewart – Scottish racing driver who won Formula1 world championship 3 times.
Moore – captained the English football team that won the World Cup in 1966.
Botham – captained the English cricket team.
Torvill and Dean – won gold medals for ice dancing at the Olympic in 1984.
Redgrave – won gold medals in rowing in 5 consecutive Olympic Games.
Baroness Tanni Grey-Thompson – wheelchair athlete won 16 Paralympic medals, including 11 gold medals, in races over five Paralympic Games. She won the London Marathon 6 times and broke a total of 30 world records.
Holmes – won 2 gold medals for running in the 2004 Olympic Games.
Hoy – Scottish cyclist who has won 6 gold and 1 silver Olympic medals.
Weir – wheelchair Paralympian who won 6 gold medals over two Paralympic Games. He has also won the London Marathon 6 times.
Wiggins – cyclist in 2012 first Briton to win the Tour de France. He has won 7 Olympic Medals.
Mo Farah – British distance runner, born in Somalia. He won gold medals in the 2012 Olympics for the 5,000 and 10,000 metres.
Ennis – athlete won the 2012 Olympic gold medal in the heptathlon.
Murray – Scottish tennis player who in 2012 won the US Open.
Simmonds – Paralympian who won gold medals for swimming at the 2008 and 2012 Paralympic Games.
MacArthur – yachtswoman 2004 fastest to sail around the world singlehanded.
Sir Francis Chichester, was the first to sail singlehanded around the world, in 1966/67.
Sir Robin Knox-Johnston became the first to do this without stopping in 1969. The most famous events is at Cowes on the Isle of Wight.
Cricket originated in England has everyday expressions such as ‘rain stopped play’, ‘batting on a sticky wicket’, ‘playing a straight bat’, ‘bowled a googly’ or ‘it’s just not cricket’. Ashes competition – England and Australia.
First football clubs were formed in the late 19th century.
The English Premier League, UEFA (Union of European Football Associations), Champions League.
England’s only international tournament victory was at the World Cup of 1966, hosted in the UK.
Rugby originated in England in the early 19th with 2 different types of rules: union and league.
The Six Nations Championship competition – England, Ireland, Scotland, Wales, France and Italy.
The Super League is the most well-known rugby league (club) competition.
Royal Ascot – 5-day race meeting in Berkshire
The Grand National at Aintree near Liverpool
The Scottish Grand National at Ayr
National Horseracing Museum in Newmarket, Suffolk.
Golf can be traced back to 15th century Scotland with St Andrews as the home of golf.
The open championship is the only ‘Major’ tournament held outside the United States hosted by a different golf course every year.
Tennis evolved in England in the late 19th century with 1st tennis club in Leamington Spa in 1872.
The Wimbledon Championships takes place each year at the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club.
Rowing yearly race on the Thames between Oxford and Cambridge Universities.
Motor-car racing in the UK started in 1902.
A Formula 1 Grand Prix event is held in the UK each year with British winners: Damon Hill, Lewis Hamilton and Jenson Button.
There are 5 ski centres in Scotland, as well as Europe’s longest dry ski slope near Edinburgh.
The Proms is an 8-week summer season of orchestral classical music that takes place in various venues, including the Royal Albert Hall in London since 1927 with the Last Night of the Proms.
Purcell was the church music organist at Westminster Abbey.
Handel German-born composer became a British citizen in 1727:
Water Music for King George I
Music for the Royal Fireworks for George II
Messiah – Oratorio sung at Easter time.
The Planets a suite of pieces themed with Jupiter as the tune for
I owe to thee my country, a popular hymn in British churches.
Elgar born in Worcester:
Pomp and Circumstance Marches.
March No1 (Land of Hope and Glory) is usually played at
the Last Night of the Proms.
Vaughan Williams music for orchestras and choirs influenced by traditional English folk music.
Walton marches for the coronations of King George VI and Queen Elizabeth II
Façade – ballet
Balthazar’s Feast – sung by a large choir
A Young Person’s Guide to the Orchestra
He founded the Aldeburgh festival in Suffolk, a popular music event.
The O2 in Greenwich, south-east London
Scottish Exhibition and Conference Centre (SECC) in Glasgow.
The Isle of Wight Festival
The V Festival
The National Eisteddfod of Wales – annual cultural festival music, dance, poetry, art and original performances largely in Welsh.
The Mercury Music Prize is awarded each September for the best album from the UK and Ireland.
The Brit Awards is an annual event that gives awards in the music.
Theatreland is in London’s west end.
Gilbert and Sullivan wrote comic operas:
The Pirates of Penzance
Andrew Lloyd Webber has written the music for shows:
The Phantom of the Opera
Pantomime based on fairy stories at Christmas time.
The Edinburgh Festival takes place in Edinburgh every summer with the Fringe.
The Laurence Olivier Awards take place annually at different venues in London for best director, best actor and best actress.
The National Gallery, Tate Britain and Tate Modern in London.
The National Museum in Cardiff.
The National Gallery of Scotland in Edinburgh.
Notable British artists
Gainsborough – portrait painter
Allan – Scottish – painting portraits. Most famous: The Origin of Painting.
Turner – landscape painter
Constable – landscape painter. Most famous: Dedham Vale.
The Pre-Raphaelites – group of artists in the second half of the 19th century. Religious or literary themes in bright colours. The group included Holman Hunt, Dante Gabriel Rossetti and Sir John Millais.
Lavery -l Northern Irish portrait painter. Painting the Royal Family.
Moore – English sculptor and artist.
Petts – Welsh artist – Engravings and stained glass.
Freud – German-born British artist – portraits.
Hockney – ‘pop art’ movement of the 1960s
The Turner Prize was established in 1984 and celebrates contemporary art. Previous winners include Damien Hirst and Richard Wright.
The White Tower in the Tower of London built on the orders of William the Conqueror.
Hardwick Hall in Derbyshire.
In the 17th century, Inigo Jones designed the Queen’s House at Greenwich and the Banqueting House in Whitehall in London.
In the 18th century, the Scottish architect Robert Adam designed Dumfries House in Scotland.
In the 19th century, the Houses of Parliament and St Pancras Station were built.
In the 20th century, Sir Edwin Lutyens designed New Delhi to be the seat of government in India, or the Cenotaph in Whitehall (Remembrance day celebration).
Modern British architects: Sir Norman Foster, Lord (Richard) Rogers and Dame Zaha Hadid.
In the 18th century, Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown designed the grounds around country houses.
Later, Gertrude Jekyll often worked with Edwin Lutyens to design colourful gardens around the houses he designed.
The annual Chelsea Flower Show.
Thomas Chippendale – furniture in the 18th century
Clarice Cliff – Art Deco ceramics
Sir Terence Conran – 20th-century interior designer
Fashion designers: Mary Quant, Alexander McQueen and Vivienne Westwood.
Nobel Prize in Literature:
Novelist Sir William Golding
Poet Seamus Heaney
Playwright Harold Pinter
Agatha Christie’s – detective
Ian Fleming’s – James Bond
In 2003, The Lord of the Rings by JRR Tolkien was voted the country’s best-loved novel.
The Man Booker Prize for Fiction is awarded annually for the best fiction novel written by an author from the Commonwealth, Ireland or Zimbabwe. Past winners include Ian McEwan, Hilary Mantel and Julian Barnes.
Notable authors and writers
Austen – English novelist. Pride and Prejudice and Sense and Sensibility.
Dickens – Novels. Oliver Twist and Great Expectations.
Stevenson – books: Treasure Island, Kidnapped and Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde.
Hardy – author and poet. Far from the Madding Crowd and Jude the Obscure.
Conan Doyle – Scottish doctor and writer. Sherlock Holmes.
Waugh – satirical novels: Decline and Fall, Scoop. Brideshead Revisited.
Amis – English novelist and poet. Lucky Jim.
Greene – novels: The Heart of the Matter, The Honorary Consul, Brighton Rock and Our Man in Havana.
J K Rowling – Harry Potter
Poems which survive from the Middle Ages include Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales and a poem called Sir Gawain and the Green Knight.
John Milton – Paradise Lost.
William Wordsworth – inspired by nature.
Sir Walter Scott – poems inspired by Scotland and the traditional stories.
19th century poets:
William Blake, John Keats, Lord Byron, Percy Shelley, Alfred Lord Tennyson, and Robert and Elizabeth Browning.
20th century poets:
Wilfred Owen, Siegfried Sassoon, Sir Walter de la Mare, John Masefield, Sir John Betjeman and Ted Hughes.
Some of the best-known poets are buried or commemorated in Poet’s Corner in Westminster Abbey.
Kew Gardens, Sissinghurst and Hidcote in England,
Crathes Castle and Inveraray Castle in Scotland,
Bodnant Garden in Wales,
Mount Stewart in Northern Ireland.
- England – the rose
- Scotland – the thistle
- Wales – the daffodil
- Northern Ireland – the shamrock.
Countries traditional foods:
• England: Roast beef, which is served with potatoes, vegetables, Yorkshire puddings (batter that is baked in the oven) and other accompaniments. Fish and chips are also popular.
• Wales: welsh cakes – traditional Welsh snack made from flour, dried fruits and spices, and served either hot or cold.
• Scotland: Haggis – a sheep’s stomach stuffed with offal. Suet, onions and oatmeal.
• Northern Ireland: Ulster fry – a fried meal with bacon, eggs, sausage, black pudding, tomatoes, mushrooms, soda bread and potato bread.
Sir Charles (Charlie) Chaplin became famous in silent movies for his tramp character.
British studios flourished in the 1930s.
Eminent directors: Sir Alexander Korda and Sir Alfred Hitchcock, Sir David Lean and Ridley Scott.
Comedies: Passport to Pimlico, The Ladykilllers, the Carry On Films.
Ealing Studios has a claim to being the oldest continuously working film studio facility in the world.
Britain continues to be particularly strong in special effects and animation
Nick Park won 4 Oscars for his animated films – Wallace and Gromit.
Actors: Sir Lawrence Olivier, David Niven, Sir Rex Harrison and Richard Burton.
Oscars for: Colin Firth, Sir Antony Hopkins, Dame Judi Dench, Kate Winslet and Tilda Swinton.
The annual British Academy Film Awards, hosted by the British Academy of Film and Television Arts (BAFTA), are the British equivalent of the Oscars.
Some famous British films
In Which We Serve – played an important part in boosting morale.
• The 39 Steps (1935), directed by Alfred Hitchcock
• Brief Encounter (1945), directed by David Lean
• The Third Man (1949), directed by Carol Reed
• The Belles of St Trinian’s (1954), directed by Frank Launder
• Lawrence of Arabia (1962), directed by David Lean
• Women in Love (1969), directed by Ken Russel
• Don’t Look Now (1973), directed by Nicolas Roeg
• Chariots of Fire (1981), directed by Hugh Hudson
• The Killing Fields (1984), directed by Roland Joffé
• Four Weddings and a Funeral (1994), directed by Mike Newell
• Touching the Void (2003), directed by Kevin MacDonald.
Punch – a satirical magazine published for the first time in the 1840s.
Morecambe and Wise – comedians became stars of television.
Television comedy shows:
That Was The Week That Was in the 1960s
Spitting Image in the 1980s and 1990s.
In 1969, Monty Python’s Flying Circus.
Soap operas: Coronation Street and EastEnders.
In Scotland, some Scotland-specific programmes are shown and there is also a channel with programmes in the Gaelic language. There is a Welsh-language channel in Wales. There are also programmes specific to Northern Ireland and some programmes broadcast in Irish Gaelic.
Everyone in the UK with a TV, computer or other medium which can be used for watching TV must have a television licence till 75, who can apply for a free TV licence and blind people can get a 50% discount. You will receive a fine up to £1,000 if you watch TV but do not have a TV licence. This money goes to the BBC.
Pubs are usually open during the day from 11.00 am (12 noon on Sundays). Pool and darts are traditional pub games. To buy alcohol in a pub or night club you must be 18 or over, but people under that age may be allowed in some pubs with an adult. When they are 16, people can drink wine or beer with a meal in a hotel or restaurant (including eating areas in pubs) as long as they are with someone over 18.
You have to be 18 to go into betting shops or gambling clubs. People under 16 are not allowed to participate in the National Lottery.
All dogs in public places must wear a collar showing the name and address of the owner.
There are 15 national parks in England, Wales and Scotland
The National Trust was founded in 1895 by three volunteers.
Big Ben (over 150 years old) is the nickname for the great bell of the clock at the House of Parliament in London.
The Eden Project is located in Cornwall, in the south west of England.
The Giant’s Causeway located on the north-east coast of Northern Ireland, formed about 50 million years ago.
Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park covers 720 square miles (1,865 square kilometres) in the west of Scotland.
The London Eye is situated on the southern bank of the River Thames and is a Ferris wheel that is 443 feet (135 metres) tall
Snowdonia is a national park in North Wales. It covers an area of 838 square miles (2,170 square kilometres).
The Tower of London was first built by William the Conqueror after he became king in 1066. Tours are given by the Yeoman Warders (Beefeaters). The Crown Jewels are there.
The Lake District is England’s largest national park. It covers 885 square miles (2,292 square kilometres).