The United Kingdom is a sovereign state in Western Europe, comprising England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. It is ensconced between the North Atlantic and the North sea, and is separated from France by the English Channel. Because it is an island state, the climates varies greatly from day to day – some sunny days suddenly break into rain, so keep your umbrella close by if you are visiting! In general, summers are sunny and warm, while winters are cold; the overall temperature is referred to as temperate maritime, meaning that temperatures do not fall too far below 0ºC in winter and do not soar to over 32º in the summer.
The United Kingdom is famed for its architectural wonders, as well as its gorgeous scenic landscapes. Countries such as Scotland are known for their romantic highlands and castles, as well as dynamic events such as the Edinburgh Festival, a celebration of theatre, music, dance, and artistry. England, meanwhile, is known as much for its lively capital (London, home to dazzling museums, Westminster Abbey and the London Eye) as it is for its verdant natural wonders – the stunning villages of the Cotswolds are home to rolling hills that inspire peace and wonder. The United Kingdom has also brought us some of the most influential musicians of all time – everyone from the Beatles to Coldplay. Of course, we cannot forget the father of theatre – Shakespeare – whose works have exerted great influence on modern literature, theatre, and cinema. Cardiff, in Wales, boasts mystical castles, dreamlike scenery and gorgeous national parks, while Northern Ireland is home to sites such as the Giant’s Causeway, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Finally, we should not forget the British gastronomic tradition. Chefs such as Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, Jamie Oliver and Heston Blumenthal have brought the magic of British cuisines to savvy diners far and wide.
Some 1,500 years ago, the Anglo-Saxons invaded Britain and set up their homes, only to be attacked by the Vikings. Around 500 years before the arrival of the Anglo-Saxons, the Romans had also invaded Britain, calling it Britannia. From 871, King Alfred and his army united the Anglo-Saxon tribes, defeating the Vikings and constructing new towns. From 1000 to 1,500 A.D., the Middle Ages saw society divided into three groups: leaders and warriors (kings, knights etc.), religious figures (monks, nuns etc.) and peasant workers. The Kings, including Richard I (´Lionheart’) undertook crusades, displaying their courage in battle. From 1486, the Tudor Dynasty reigned, followed by the Georgians. From the 1600s to the 1900s the British travelled to far-off lands, building their Empire. During the Victorian era, Britain grew into one of the most powerful nations in the world. In the 20th century, Britain took part in two world wars alongside the allied forces.
Its mild climate and rich soil ensure that the UK is home to a diverse range of vegetation. Extensive forests in Scotland and southeast England remain; oak, beech and elm are some of the most beautiful trees in England, while Scotland is famous for its pine and birch. The UK is home to wild flora as well, including heather, gorse and bracken in the moorlands. The fauna is similar to that of other northwestern European countries. Common animals include foxes, rabbits, shrews, otters and seals, as well as reptiles, amphibians, and around 230 bird species.
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