The United Kingdom

UK key facts

  • About the UK: The United Kingdom consists of England, Wales, Scotland (which together make up Great Britain) and Northern Ireland.
  • Capital cities: The capital city of the UK is London, which is also the capital of England. For Wales the capital is Cardiff, for Scotland it is Edinburgh, and for Northern Ireland it is Belfast.
  • Population: The population of the UK is estimated to be around 63 million (England: 53 million, Scotland: 5.3 million, Wales: 3 million, Northern Ireland: 1.8 million).
  • Land area: The UK is close to 95,000 square miles (245,000 square kilometres), stretching from the Shetland Islands off the north coast of Scotland, down to the Isles of Scilly in south west England, and across the sea to Northern Ireland.
  • Countryside: The UK’s long coastline is around 5000 miles (8000 kilometres). The geography ranges from green meadows and woodland to rugged moorland and mountains. The highest mountain is Ben Nevis in Scotland at just over 1340 metres.
  • Heritage: The UK has a fascinating history dating back to 6500 BC. All over the UK you’ll find monuments marking its history, from Stonehenge to Buckingham Palace. The UK is also home to over 28 cultural and natural UNESCO World Heritage Sites and Heritage Cities including Edinburgh, Bath, Canterbury, Chester, Durham, Oxford, Stratford-upon-Avon and York.
  • Economy: The UK is one of the world’s leading business locations and the number one destination for inward investment in Europe. The UK is one of the top ten manufacturers in the world and has the largest industries in Europe for Life Sciences, ICT and the Creative Industries. Find out more at UKTI.
  • Language: English is spoken throughout the UK, but there are other official languages too, such as Welsh, Scots and Gaelic.
  • Money: The currency of the UK is pounds sterling.
  • Religion: The main religion in the UK is Christianity. However, the UK is a multi-faith society where other religions are widely welcomed and accepted.
  • Government: The United Kingdom is a parliamentary democracy – this means that the government is elected by the people. There is an election once every five years. The Prime Minister leads the government with the support of the cabinet and ministers. The UK is a member of the European Union.
    As well as the central UK government, there are three ‘devolved administrations’ for Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. They are responsible for many domestic policy issues such as health, education, culture, the environment and transport. You can find out more at the website.
  • The royal family: The Queen is Head of State in the United Kingdom. As a constitutional monarch, Her Majesty does not ‘rule’ the country, but the royal family fulfils important ceremonial and formal roles with respect to Government. Find out more at
  • Law: There may be some differences between the law in your country and the law in the UK. For example, in the UK:
    • You must not use or carry any illegal drugs, including cannabis, ecstasy, LSD or amphetamines.
    • It is illegal to carry self-defence CS gas sprays, guns or stun guns. There are also very strict laws and penalties around carrying knives.
    • You must be aged 18 or over to buy tobacco and alcohol.
    • You should never buy property that you think might be stolen, no matter how tempting it seems.
    • It is illegal to drive a car without the correct driving licence and without car insurance. Driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol is a serious offence.

    Find out more

    To find out more about life in the UK, visit VisitBritain or Discover Northern Ireland.

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