* The UK is comprised of England, Wales, Scotland and the northern one-sixth of the island of Ireland (Northern Ireland)
Capital | London
Population | 61,284,806 (July 2010 est)
Area | 243, 610 SQ KM
Official Language | English
Holidays | Boxing Day 26 December
* If the date falls on a weekend the holiday will be observed on the next working day
Currency | British Pounds (GBP)
Time Zone | UTC+1
Capital | London
Area | 129,720 SQ KM
Best Time to Visit | May to September (summer) – or for the free-spirited, the swinging 1960’s
Connecting with the Culture | Climbing to the top of St. Paul’s Cathedral for an alternative view of London; Marveling at the prehistoric ruin of Stonehenge and the sheer effort involved in its creation; Reveling in the sense of achievement on reaching the peak of Scafell Pike on the Lake District, England’s highest mountain; Mixing Roman and Georgian history in the elegant town of Bath; Eating fish and chips on a pebbly beach, and willing the sun to shine; Exploring Cornwall’s coastline of cliffs and bays, dotted with picturesque harbours and villages.
Read | The English by Jeremy Paxman, an exploration of the English psyche by one of the country’s toughest TV interviewers
Listen | to the Kinks’ Waterloo Sunset, a great introduction to the many songs written about the capital; or anything by the Beatles
Watch | Sense and Sensibility, a film of a thoroughly English novel in a thoroughly English setting
Eat | Sunday roast dinner (typically beef with roast potatoes, Yorkshire pudding, carrots, peas and gravy) followed by a hearty apple crumble with custard and cream
Drink | real ale – England is the home of proper beer
In a Word | Oright?
Characteristics | The weather; the Royal Family; Lords and Ladies and big hats at Ascot; Cockney rhyming slang; Brit Pop; jellied eels; warm beer; page three girls; fry-ups; football
Surprises | It doesn’t actually rain that much; the English drink even more tea than you already think they do; most of the best things on offer in England are free
Capital | Edinburgh
Area | 78,772 SQ KM
Best Time to Visit | May to September – or before the Act of Union in 1707 when the English stayed south of the border
Connecting with the Culture | Taking in the magnificent view of the Firth and Forth from the top of Edinburgh Castle. Viewing the aurora borealis on a clear winter’s night from the shores of Loch Tay. Walking around Neolithic homes of Skara Brae, Orkney built before the Egyptians thought of the pyramids. Climbing Ben Nevis to experience the remote beauty of Scotland’s highlands. Hitting a very small ball into a very small hole, with a very tall flag in it, at St. Andrews.
Read | anything by Robert Burns, or Trainspotting by Irvine Welsh, for an incomparable by often incomprehensible insight into Scotland
Listen | to the Proclaimers or check out The Corries for true Scottish folk
Watch | Whiskey Galore, adapted by Compton MacKenzie’s novel of the same name. MacKenzie is known for the adage ‘Love makes the world go round? Not at all! Whiskey makes it go round twice as fast’
Eat | haggis, neeps and tatties (haggis, turnips and potatoes) or try some cranachan (whipped cream flavored whiskey, and mixed with toasted oatmeal and raspberries)
Drink | whiskey, Deuchars IPA (beer) or Irn-Bru (soft drink)
In a Word | Och aye tha noo (how are you? /I’m fine; the meaning is not very easy to translate)
Characteristics | Hogmanay and ceilidhs; castles, kilts and tartanalia; Highland Games; bagpipers; haggis; deep-fried Mars Bars; whiskey; serious drinkers; heart disease; independence; mingin’ weather; the Loch Ness Monster; Sean Connery
Surprises | More redheads are born in Scotland compared to the rest of the world. Some of the oldest mountains in the world can be found in the Highlands of Scotland.
Capital | Cardiff
Area | 20,764 SQ KM
Official Language | English, Welsh
Best Time to Visit | March to May (spring) when the countryside is in bloom and Whales is at its driest
Connecting with the Culture | Touring the Castles at Conway, Carnarfon and Harlech. Riding the electric cliff railway at Aberystwyth. Visiting the Victorian seaside resort of Llandudno. Strolling along the cliffs-top Pembrokenshire Coast Path from St David’s to Cardigan past tiny fishing villages, secluded coves and plenty of pubs.
Read | Dannie Abse’s Journals from the Antheap, a humorous account of his trips through Wales.
Listen | music by a Welsh male choir
Watch | Hedd Wynn
Eat | bara brith (rich, fruited tea-loaf) or cawl (a meat and vegetable broth)
Drink | Brains (beer)
In a Word | Lechyd da! (good health!)
Characteristics | The coal mines of the South; mountains and rain; male voice choirs; castles everywhere; the Welsh Dragon; leeks
Surprises | The most famous of Welsh gastronomic specialties is laver bread, which is not bread at all but boiled seaweed mixed with oatmeal and served with bacon and toast for breakfast.
NEWS ABOUT THE UK:
UK beaches blighted by balloons and discarded bags of dog poo
(HN, 3/21/12) - In Britain, dog poo wrapped in plastic bags discarded by careless owners has emerged as 1 of the biggest single threats to the health & safety of beach visitors, a marine conservation charity has warned. The finding is in the latest beach litter data collected by the Marine Conservation Society (MCS) last year & published on Thursday in its "Beachwatch Big Weekend Report". The charity says the volume of dog excrement in bags left on UK beaches rose 11% between 2010 & 2011. Scotland recorded the biggest increase – 71% in 1 year. Lauren Davis of MCS says "Leaving a bag full of poo on the beach will result in preserved excrement, protected from the elements for years by a bag which could take a long time to break down. Dog poo is a source of high levels of bacteria and can lead to reduced water quality, and also poses a human health risk." (Read more at The Guardian)