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United Kingdom

United Kingdom Explanation ::--United Kingdom History||United Kingdom Geography||United Kingdom Administration||United Kingdom World Heritage Site||


The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland (commonly known as the United Kingdom, the UK or Britain) is a sovereign state located off the north-western coast of continental Europe.

United Kingdom of Great Britain

The country includes the island of Great Britain, the north-eastern part of the island of Ireland and many smaller islands. Northern Ireland is the only part of the UK that shares a land border with another sovereign state—the Republic of Ireland. Apart from this land border the UK is surrounded by the Atlantic Ocean, the North Sea, the English Channel and the Irish Sea.

The United Kingdom is a unitary state governed under a constitutional monarchy and a parliamentary system, with its seat of government in the capital city of London. It is a country in its own right and consists of four countries: England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales.


There are three devolved national administrations, each with varying powers, situated in Belfast, Cardiff and Edinburgh; the capitals of Northern Ireland, Wales and Scotland respectively. Associated with the UK, but not constitutionally part of it, are three Crown Dependencies and fourteen overseas territories.


These are remnants of the British Empire which, at its height in 1922, encompassed almost a quarter of the world's land surface and was the largest empire in history. British influence can still be observed in the language, culture and legal systems of many of its former territories.

The UK is a developed country and has the world's sixth-largest economy by nominal GDP and seventh-largest economy by purchasing power parity. It was the world's first industrialised country and the world's foremost power during the 19th and early 20th centuries. The UK remains a great power with leading economic, cultural, military, scientific and political influence.

It is a recognised nuclear weapons state and its military expenditure ranks third or fourth in the world. The UK has been a permanent member of the United Nations Security Council since its first session in 1946; it is also a member of the Commonwealth of Nations, the Council of Europe, the European Union, the G7, the G8, the G20, NATO, the OECD and the World Trade Organization.


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10 must-see sights of the United Kingdom


Consisting of a ring of monolithic stones, complete in some cases with heavy stone lintels, argument has long waged between historians and scholars as to both the site's construction and its purpose. The Neolithic period in which Stonehenge was erected was initially thought to have lacked the means of transporting and lifting the 25-50 ton stones that now stand and lie at Salisbury Plain. Built over a period of 650 years, both supernatural and methods deemed out of their time have been suggested as being behind the construction, although more recent claims have argued that it could actually have been carried out by hand using primitive technology and the principles of leverage. Theories as to Stonehenge's function have ranged from a Druidic place of worship and sacrifice; an observatory; a burial ground; an extraterrestrial landing site; right through to the latest evidence that it was in fact a place of healing in the vein of a stone-age Lourdes

York Minster

Located in the ancient walled city of York, there has been a place of worship on the site since around 630AD. After being repeatedly destroyed and rebuilt, the Minster building we know today began construction somewhere around 1230 and reached completion in 1472. This meant that stonemasons and workers starting out on the initial venture did so in the knowledge that they'd never see their work completed. The plan view of York Minster reveals the cruciform to which a lot of Christian churches were built. The building consists of a nave, a chapter house, a transept, an east wing, a crypt, and three towers. It is also host to some of the most spectacular stained-glass windows in the whole of the UK, some dating back to the twelfth century.

united kingdom map

There have been a number of fires at York Minster throughout its turbulent life, completely obliterating various sections. Perhaps the most famous of these - or notorious at least - was in 1984 when the roof of the south transept was destroyed by a bolt of lightning, three days after the consecration of the new Bishop of Durham, Dr. David Jenkins. He had been widely reported in the press as saying the resurrection was a 'conjuring trick with bones', which had lead to accusations of harbouring heretical views. The bolt of lightning was seen by some as a divine show of disapproval.

York Minster is only one of two churches in the world to have its own police force. The other being St. Peter's in Rome.


It is a small resort on the west coast of Wales that is very Mediterranean in appearance and is said by some to have been based on the Italian town of Portofino by its designer, Sir Clough Williams-Ellis. The architecture and colour scheme are quite unlike anything else you'll find in the United Kingdom, and it has been widely referenced in popular culture, due in no small part to the television series, The Prisoner, which was filmed extensively therein.

The village of Portmeirion is actually one big hotel, with the majority of the buildings used as hotel rooms or holiday cottages; or providing services such as shops, restaurants, cafes etc. The village is one of Wales's biggest tourist attractions and open to the public daily, via a charge upon admission.


Located on the river Avon, it is a market town that has reached prominence because of its connection with the bard himself, William Shakespeare. It is impossible to walk a few yards in Stratford without happening upon some reminder or another of their most distinguished son. As well as the Royal Shakespeare Theatre there is, amongst other things, the house of his birth, the house in which he died, associated museums, as well as streets that still exist to this day along which Shakespeare once trod, possibly pondering an early sonnet.

But it isn't just the Shakespeare connection that makes Stratford-upon-Avon worth visiting. It is a beautiful town, still resplendent in its carefully maintained medieval splendour, with the banks of the river particularly radiant during the summer months.

The Roman Baths at Bath

Bath is HOME to the only hot springs in the UK. It is upon this spring that the original Bathhouse was built in 4AD following the Roman occupation of Britain. The exceptionally well preserved Great Bath remains to this day, as well as the Sacred Spring, originally worshipped by the Celts, and the Roman Temple. These are all found below street level, having been excavated and restored throughout the course of history. Everything above street level was built during the nineteenth century to house these finds.

There is also a museum, which is HOME to an extensive collection of Roman artefacts found in and about the surrounding area. Bath was once a busy Roman town, so there's plenty to see here. Unfortunately, the water that flows through the Roman baths is no longer open to the public. This is due of the risk of infectious diseases that claimed the life of a girl in 1979, who after swallowing some of the water, died five days later. The recently opened Thermae Bath Spa allows present-day visitors to experience the hot springs and thermal baths as the Romans might once have.

Warwick Castle

Warwick castle is an imposing, yet beautifully rendered castle overlooking a bend on the River Avon. It is situated in the county town of Warwick in the West Midlands.

The origins of Warwick Castle date back to the Norman conquest of England in 1066. When William the Conqueror advanced northwards in 1068, he had the castle built as a simple motte-and-bailey (a keep and an enclosed courtyard) to enforce his control over the Midlands. It was replaced by a stone castle between 1154 and 1189 and work was carried out almost constantly right up until the eighteenth century to expand it to the splendorous structure that exists today.

Nowadays Warwick Castle is a major tourist attraction, having been placed in the top 10 of 'historic houses and monuments' by the British Tourist Authority back in 2001. It has also been named 'Britain's best castle' by the Good Britain Guide, playing host to numerous activities and events, including archery displays, ghost hunts, birds of prey shows, banquets, firework displays, social evenings and concerts. Warwick Castle is also HOME to a working Trebuchet, one of world's largest siege engines. It holds the record as the world's most powerful catapult and is capable of hurling up to 150kg of ballast at a time. Warwick Castle's Trebuchet is fired twice daily between the months of March and October.

Hampton Court Palace

It is also a former royal palace situated in southwest London and once echoed to the footfalls of King Henry VIII, who was responsible for much of its rebuild. It was the London HOME to the monarchy from around 1525 up until the time of George III in 1760. After extensive restoration work, Queen Victoria opened it to the public in 1838.

The world famous maze spreads out across a third of an acre of the Palace's grounds and contains half a mile of paths. It is estimated to have been planted somewhere between 1689 and 1695 for the indulgence of then monarch, William III of Orange.

As Henry VIII is possibly the most famous royal resident associated with Hampton Court's history, it stands to reason that his household is thought to be behind the majority of the haunting. Jane Seymour, Henry's third wife, died through complications of childbirth and is said to haunt the palace, sometimes seen carrying a candle. Catherine Howard, the fifth wife, who was beheaded for treason, pleaded and screamed for her husband upon hearing she was about to be arrested and continued to do so even as they dragged her away. This event is said to be played out in the same hallway to this day, complete with eerie, bloodcurdling screams. There are even reported sightings of Henry VIII and another beheaded wife, Ann Boleyn, who has been witnessed with and sans head, and even with it tucked underneath her arm. There is also the 'grey lady', thought to be the nurse to Henry VIII's children; two ghostly soldiers; a young boy in seventeenth century dress; a young woman seen passing through crowds of tourists; and most famously from recent years, CCTV footage of a large spectral figure in a robe, shutting - of all things - a pair of fire doors.

The Tower of London

The Tower of London has a long and often chequered history. It began life as a white tower erected by William the Conqueror to maintain a vicelike hold on the city of London and assert his authority as the new ruler of England. The white tower stands to this day and is the centrepiece to what over the course of history has become a heavily armoured fortress.

Aside from the White Tower there are two other enduring features of the Tower of London that are instantly recognisable. The Yeomen Warders, or Beefeaters to give them their common name, and the Tower ravens. The Beefeaters are ceremonial guardians who nowadays act as tour guides, whilst it is said that should the ravens ever leave the Tower of London, the monarchy and the kingdom will subsequently crumble along with the White Tower. The birds' wings are clipped to prevent any such catastrophe from occurring.

The Tower of London has been HOME to the crown jewels ever since 1303, but it isn't just these sacramental ornaments of State that have been kept there. The Tower of London has been used extensively as a prison throughout history; particularly known for its incarceration of high profile prisoners. Such luminaries to have been held at the 'Bloody Tower' include Sir Walter Raleigh, Guy Fawkes, Rudolf Hess, the Krays, and assorted Kings and Queens. It was readily equipped with a torture chamber for extracting confessions and alleviating the tedium, and executions were carried out within the grounds or more commonly on nearby Tower Hill. The famous Traitors' Gate, through which prisoners were brought to the Tower, was often the final glimpse of the outside world those branded 'enemies of the state' would have.

The Tower of London is reported to be the most haunted building in England, with sightings of Ann Boleyn, once again with her head tucked underneath her arm; Henry VI; and Lady Jane Grey amongst others. The Tower of London was also used as a menagerie up until 1835, which may explain the apparition of a spectral bear that is said to have frightened an unsuspecting guard to death in the nineteenth century.

Edinburgh Castle

Archaeological evidence shows that the rock has been used as a strategically positioned stronghold for over 3000 years. The structure that stands there today, however, dates primarily back to the sixteenth century, when rebuilding and strengthening of the fortifications were commissioned after the destruction of much of what had stood there before, during a year-long siege sparked by the deposition of Mary Queen of Scots from the Scottish throne. The oldest surviving section of the castle is in fact St. Margaret's Chapel which was built by King David I and dates back to the beginning of the twelfth century.

Edinburgh Castle has a strong military history, having served as a garrison fortress from the time of King Charles II onwards. It was also used as a military prison from 1842 until 1923. Nowadays, its primary function is as a tourist attraction, being Scotland's second most popular behind the Kelvingrove Art Gallery, although a small, largely ceremonial garrison remains.

The London Eye

Officially opened on New Year's Eve 1999, it became operational in March of 2000 and has since gone on to become the United Kingdom's most popular tourist attraction. It was built to celebrate the start of the new millennium, with the wheel representative of the turning of time. It takes about 30 minutes for the London Eye to travel a full revolution, and on a clear day from its pinnacle it yields a view ranging 25 miles in all directions; as far as Windsor Castle.

Hanging like a gigantic bicycle wheel in the sky, the London Eye is supported on the one side alone by a giant A-frame from which juts the spindle. This makes it unique among other oversized and permanent Ferris wheels, which use the traditional two A-frames and axle method of support.

It has 32 pods, each capable of carrying approximately 25 people at a time. That's a capacity of 800 people at any time. As of June 2008 a cool 30 million people had experienced the London Eye.