27.08.2017 | Silverstone - Silverstone Circuit
Location: Northwest Europe.
Area: 242,514 sq km (93,635 sq miles).
Population: 63,395,574 (2013).
Population Density: 261.4 per sq km.
Government: Constitutional monarchy.
Geography: The British landscape can be divided roughly into two kinds of terrain - highland and lowland. The highland area comprises the mountainous regions of Scotland, Northern Ireland, northern England and North Wales.
The English Lake District in the northwest contains lakes and fells. The lowland area is broken up by sandstone and limestone hills, long valleys and basins such as the Wash on the east coast. In the southeast, the North and South Downs culminate in the White Cliffs of Dover.
The coastline includes fjord-like inlets in the northwest of Scotland, spectacular cliffs and wild sandy beaches on the east coast and, further south, beaches of rock, shale and sand sometimes backed by dunes, and large areas of fenland in East Anglia.
Note: The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland consists of England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. Although they form one administrative unit (with regional exceptions), they have had separate cultures, languages and political histories.
The United Kingdom section consists of a general introduction (covering the aspects that the four countries have in common) and sections devoted to the four constituent countries. The Channel Islands (Alderney, Guernsey, Jersey, Sark and Herm) and the Isle of Man are dependencies of the British Crown. These are included here for convenience of reference.
More detailed geographical descriptions of the various countries may be found under the respective travel guides.
Language: English. Welsh is spoken in parts of Wales, and Gaelic in parts of Scotland. The many ethnic minorities within the UK also speak their own languages (eg Cantonese, Greek, Hindi, Mandarin, Turkish, Urdu, etc).
Religion: Predominantly Christian (Church of England, Roman Catholic, Presbyterian, Methodist), sizeable Muslim, Sikh, Jewish and Hindu minorities. Around 15% of the population have no religion.
Time: GMT (GMT + 1 from last Sunday in March to last Sunday in October).
Social Conventions: The monarchy, though now only symbolic politically, is a powerful and often subconscious unifying force. Members of the Royal Family are the subject of unceasing fascination, with their every move avidly followed and reported by the popular press, both in the UK and abroad.
Handshaking is customary when introduced to someone for the first time. One kiss on the cheek is gaining popularity for close friends. Normal social courtesies should be observed when visiting someone's home and a small present such as flowers or chocolates is appreciated. It is polite to wait until everyone has been served before eating.
Clothing: Some nightclubs and restaurants do not allow jeans and trainers, otherwise casual wear is widely acceptable. For business, a suit and tie should be worn, although in some workplaces an open neck is acceptable.
Use of public places: Topless sunbathing is allowed on certain beaches and tolerated in some parks. Smoking is banned in all enclosed public places, including stations, pubs and restaurants, throughout the UK.
Electricity: 240 volts AC, 50Hz. Square three-pin plugs are standard.
Head of Government: Prime Minister David Cameron since 2010.
Head of State: HM Queen Elizabeth II since 1953.
Recent History: On the passport of a British citizen are the words: the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. This rather clumsy title reflects the long and complicated history of this awkwardly positioned archipelago, splashed by the North Sea to the east and the North Atlantic to the West.
The history of the British Isles has been one of constant flux. Over the last 2,000 years, a long list of invaders and invitees have made their home on the islands including the Romans, Angles, Saxons, Vikings, Huguenots, German nobility and latterly, émigrés from Commonwealth countries and former colonies such as Jamaica, India, Pakistan and across Africa.
Northern Ireland's Troubles (elongated enough to deserve a capital letter), between unionists loyal to the United Kingdom and nationalists who want Northern Ireland to be incorporated into Ireland, is well documented. The violence has subsided substantially, thanks to a power sharing agreement.
The Labour Party headed the government from 1997-2010, when Tony Blair and ‘New Labour' won a landslide victory over the Conservative Party. For the first term Blair enjoyed huge parliamentary majorities for his party in the face of largely ineffective opposition from the Conservatives. However, during the second term, especially post 9/11, the Iraq War dominated the remaining Blair's time in office and his legacy. Critics argue at the expense of domestic policy movements. Blair's decision to support the US invasion of the Middle Eastern country deeply divided the UK, and opinion as to the wisdom of the action remains polarised. Related to events in the Middle East, terrorist attacks in July 2005 brought London to a standstill, and security continues to be tight.
A prominent achievement of the Blair government was the 1999 introduction of devolved power for Scotland and Wales, giving the two nations a far greater say in matters directly affecting their parts of the UK.
Blair stood down on 27 June 2007 and his incumbent Chancellor of the Exchequer Gordon Brown took over the role.
The global financial crisis affected the United Kingdom particularly badly, and was the last country of the G8 to come out of recession (and it may dip down again).
Labour however was ousted during the general election of May 2010, which led to the UK's first hung parliament since 1974. The Conservatives won the most MPs but fell short of a majority for an outright victory. As a result, a coalition government is now in place, with Conservative leader David Cameron as Prime Minister, and Liberal Democrat's Nick Clegg as his deputy.