The British Isles consist of two large islands - Great Britain (comprising England, Wales and Scottland) and Ireland (comprising Irish Republic and Northern Ireland), and more than 5,000 smaller islands. British islands are divided into two independent states :
1. The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland
2. The Republic of Ireland
Size of British Isles.
The British Isles form a group of islands lying off the north-west coast of Continent. Britain's area is about 24,100 square km. It is just under 1,000 km from the south coast to the extreme north and just under 500 km across the widest part. There are numerous bays and no place is as much as 120 km from tidal water.
Regions of Great Britain.
Great Britain can be roughly divided into two main regions: lowland Britain and highland Britain. Highland Britain comprises all the mountains and uplands lying above 300 meters. Principal mountain and hill ranges and the highest peaks are :
- Grampian Highlands in Scottland with Ben Nevis 1,342m-highest
- Cambrian Mountains with Snowdon 1,085m in Wales
Lowland Britain is mainly a rich plain, more often rolling than flat, hardly ever reaching 300 m above sea level. Almost the whole of lowland Britain has been cultivated. About 82% of Great Britain is used for agricultural purposes.
British rivers are not very long, but they are comparatively deep. The best known is the river Thames which rises in the Cotswolds and flows through Oxford, past Windsor, on through London and finally out to the North Sea. The longest and the most important rivers are: Severn 342 km and Thames 338 km. Britain is rich in waterways. Almost every town stands on its river: Strattford-upon-Avon, Newcastle-on-Tyne etc.
Lakes are to be found in the Lake District of England and in the highlands in Scottland, where they are called lochs. The Lake District in north-west of England is renowned for its scenic beauty and numerous lakes. England's largest lake is Lake Windermere (over 16 km long). The largest and most beautiful of Scottland's lakes are Loch Lomond (near Glassgow) and Loch Ness (near Iverness) which became world-famous in 1930 by its "Loch Ness Monster".
Britain has generally mild and temperate climate. There are mild winters, not very hot summers, no extremes of temperature, frequent changes of the weather. The prevailing winds are south-westerly.
Britain is very rich in high quality coal. The main coal-bearing areas are: the Scottish field in the Central Lowlands, near Newcastle, Nottingham, Manchaster, Cardiff.
A number of gasfields and oilfields have been discovered in the British sector of the North Sea. Gas began to be produced in 1960 and oil in 1970.
The total population of United Kingdom is nearly 60 million. There is one town besides London with population over 1 million - Birmingham. These two are followed by Glassgow, Leeds, Sheffield, Liverpool, Manchester, Edinbourgh, Bristol, Belfast, Coventry, Cardif, each of which has population of more than 300,000.
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