The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland is the official name of the British Kingdom, including England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

It is situated on the British Isles which lie off the north-west coast of the European continent.

The British Isles consist of more than 5,500 islands. The biggest island is Great Britain. There are also the Shetland Islands, the Hebrides, the Orkney Islands, the Isle of Man, Anglesey, Wight, etc.

Great Britain stretches for 1000 kilometres from the south to the extreme north, and for 500 kilometres in the widest part.

It is washed by the Atlantic Ocean in the north-west, north and south-west, and is separated from the European continent by the North Sea, the Straight of Dover and the English Channel.

The country occupies the area of 242,500 square kilometres. The territory of Great Britain is small, yet the country has a wide variety of scenery. England, which is the richest, the most fertile and the most populated part of the country, is a vast plain. It is separated from Scotland by the Cheviot Hills running from east to west. In Northwest England there are many picturesque lakes with green, wooded or grassy shores and grey mountains all around. It is famous Lake District, the real tourist attraction. Wales and Scotland are mountainous areas. In Wales the mountains are rocky and difficult to climb. The highest mountain is Snowdon. The Highlands of Scotland are among the oldest mountains in the world. The highest of them is Ben Nevis. By the way, Scotland is a land of famous lakes. They are called «lochs» there. The beautiful Loch Lomond is the largest one and Loch Ness attracts millions of tourists by its legendary monster.

The rivers are not long in Britain. The largest of them are the Severn (350 km), the Clyde and the Mersey. They flow into the Irish Sea. The Thames (346 km), the Trent (274 km), the Ouse keep their way to the North Sea. The Thames is the busiest and the most important river in Great Britain. The capital of Great Britain, London, stands on the Thames.

The climate of Great Britain is temperate and mild due to the influence of the warm waters of the Gulf-Stream. The summers are usually cool and rainy. There is much rain and fog in autumn and in winter. Great Britain is a damp country. The weather is very changeable and it is the favourite topic of conversation in Britain.

The population of Great Britain is 57 million people. Population density is highest in England and lowest in Scotland. Four out of every five people live in towns and cities. The largest of them are London, Birmingham, Liverpool, Manchester, Glasgow, Edinburgh, Cardiff and Belfast.

Britain is a parliamentary democracy with a constitutional monarch. The present Sovereign is Queen Elizabeth II. In practice, the Sovereign reigns but doesn’t rule. The United Kingdom is governed by the Government — a body of Ministers, the Cabinet. It consists of the leading members of the political party in power. They are responsible to Parliament. The main political parties are the Conservatives, the Labour party and the Liberal-Social Democratic party. The Prime Minister, who heads the Government, is usually the leader of the party which has a majority in the House of Commons. The House of Commons and the House of Lords with the Monarch comprise the Parliament. Once Parliament approves legislation it receives the Royal Assent and becomes law.

Great Britain is one of the world’s major industrialised and trading nations. It enjoys a long established democratic system of government which has provided political stability. The United Kingdom is a member of the European Community (EC), the United Nations Organisation (UNO), the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) and the Commonwealth.