Britain lies off the north – west coast of Europe across the English Channel, the Strait of Dover and the North Sea. It consists of 2 large islands (Great Britain and Ireland) and about 5000 smaller ones (e.g. the Isle of Wight, the Hebrides, and the Orkneys). It covers the area of 244,805 square kilometres. England is mostly rolling land, rising to the Uplands of southern Scotland. The main mountain regions here are the Cornish Heights, the Cambrians, the Cumbrian Mountains, the Pennines, the cheviot Hills and the Highlands of Scotland (highest mountains in Britain). The longest rivers are the Severn and the Thames. There are beautiful lake areas in Cumbria and the Highlands of Scotland.
Population is about 60 000 000 people. The density is one of the highest in the World – 232 people/square km. There are several ethnic groups: English, Scottish, Irish, Welsh, Ulster and others. There are minority languages which are of Celtic origin – Welsh, Scottish and Irish Gaelic. These laugages have some differences between.
The Celts arrived 2500 to 3000 ago. Their language survives in Welsh and Gaelic enclaves as well as in the names of the main European rivers (the Thames, the Elbe, ...)
England was added to the Roman Empire in 43 AD. The Romans built camps, forts and roads throughout the land and also Hadrians Wall as the protection against the invasion of the Celtic tribes. After the withdrawal of Roman legions in 410 the wawes of the Jutes, the Angles and the Saxons arrived from German lands. They drove Celtic peoples into the mountains of Wales and Scotland and fought with the Danes from the 8th to the 11th centuries. The last successful invasion was by French speaking Normans led by William, Duke of Normandy, who became William the Conqueror after defeating the Saxon King Harold in the Battle of Hastings in 1966. Under Queen Elizabeth I. Britain became a major sea power, leading to the founding of colonies in the new world and the expansion of trade with Europe and the Orient. Technological innovations led to the Industrial Revolution (1760s – 1850s). Large parts of Africa and Asia were added to the empire during the reign of Queen Victoria. The country suffered major bombing damage in World War II., but held out against Germany after the fall of France in 1940.
Interesting places in Great Britain:
Oxford and Cambridge are the old university towns. Stratford-upon-Avon is the birthplace of William Shakespeare and the place where his plays are performed at the Shakespeare Memorial Theatre. The English countryside is full of peaceful harbour-towns with fishing boats, yachts, cottages and the English like to spend their holidays here. Resorts such as Brighton, Bournemouth, Portsmouth, Blackpool, Sunderland or Scarbough have fine sandy beaches and nice atmosphere. Southern part of England is full of historical monuments and romantic sceneries. Canterbury is an ancient city with a majestic cathedral. The other old cathedral town is Winchester – once it was the capital of England. Salisbury is in Salisbury Plain where we can see a beautiful historic monument of Stonehenge with its giant stone circles which are more than 3000 years old. The West Country has its own character, different from the North and the South. The country is still unspoiled by industry. The only larger towns here are Bristol, Plymouth, Bath and Exeter.
Plymouth has a proud maritime heritage. Bath is worth seeing for the remains of its Roman bath built 2000 years ago. Exeter is the starting point for Dartmoor – the moorland. I its the country of many national parks. Going north we can go through Birmingham which is at the geographical heart of England and is the second largest city in Britain. We can see interesting Victorian architecture here and the network of canals which is the evidence of rich industrial heritage. In Manchester we can visit The museum of Science and Industry, The Air and Space Museum. The other bit cities here are Liverpool, Leeds, Sheffield and York. Northern England – Cumbria and Northumbria – is the country of beautiful nature, many national parks and cultural traditions, e. g. in the city of Durham we can find a massive 11th century castle and a beautiful cathedral, both situated on cliffs high above the river Wear. The lake District National Park with beautiful Windermere Lake is the region where romantic poets wrote their poetry. Now this area is popular with mountaineers, painters and tourists. The lakes are good for water sports.
Saxon invaders attacked Wales and this English conquest of Wales was completed in 1282 by the English King Edward I. He started the tradition of giving the title “Prince of Wales” to the oldest son of the English King. Wales is sometimes called the land of castles. Among the best known are Caernarfon, where Prince Charles was invested as Prince of Wales in 1969, Conwy and Harlech which stand on rocky cliffs overlooking the mountains of Snowdonia National Park. The land is full of mystery and beauty. There are snow-capped mountain, green valleys, sea resorts, big cities and little seaside towns. Cardiff, Newport and Swansea are the biggest cities here.
Scotland is a historically and culturally separate country from England. It has its own legal and educational systems and currency (the value is the same but banknotes have different design). Scotland is the land of many special traditions which cannot be found elsewhere in the world – playing the pipes, quality tweeds, woollen knitwear, wearing kilts made us tartan, Scotch whisky. The biggest city is Glasgow, an old Victorian town, the cultural centre and the heart of the arts in Scotland. The city has also some of finest museums and galleries in Europe. Edinburgh is dominated by imposing 12th century castle – Holyroodhouse. Through the heart of the city the cobbled Royal Mile runs. The city is full of attractive squares, tree – lined avenues and elegant shopping centres like Princess street.
Housing in Britain:
Almost half of all British families own the houses in which they live. There are several types of houses in Britain: a terraced house, a semi-detached house, a detached house, a bungalow and a cottage. A typical British house is set in a small garden and has two storeys. There is a hall, a front room, a back room, a kitchen, a pantry and a storage space downstairs. A garage is attached to the house. Upstairs there is one big bedroom and two smaller ones, a bathroom and a lavatory.
Sightseeing in London:
There are many places of interest. We can see them by walking or by various means of transport. There are Houses of Parliament, Big Ben, Westminster cathedral, Westminster abbey, St. Paul’s Cathedral – Whispering Gallery, the Tower, the Tower Bridge, Trafalgar Square, the National Gallery of British Art, The British Museum, the Buckingham Palace, the Post Office Tower, the National Theatre, the National Maritime Museum and some parks, e.g. St. James Park, Green Park, Regents Park and the Hyde Park.