Geography of the United Kingdom

Learn information about the United Kingdom

Houses of Parliament and Big Ben at dusk in London
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The United Kingdom (UK) is an island nation located in Western Europe. Its land area is made up of the island of Great Britain, part of the island of Ireland and many smaller nearby islands. The UK has coastlines along the Atlantic Ocean, the North Sea, the English Channel, and the North Sea. The UK is one of the world's most developed nations and as such it has a global influence.

Formation of the United Kingdom

Much of the United Kingdom's history is known for the British Empire, its continuous worldwide trade and expansion that began as early as the end of the 14th century and the Industrial Revolution of the 18th and 19th centuries. This article, however, focuses on the formation of the United Kingdom.

The UK has a long history that consists of several different invasions, including a brief entry by the Romans in 55 B.C.E. In 1066 the UK area was part of the Norman Conquest, which aided in its cultural and political development.

In 1282 the UK took over the independent Kingdom of Wales under Edward I and in 1301, his son, Edward II, was made the Prince of Wales in an effort to appease the Welsh people according to the United States Department of State. The oldest son of the British monarch is still given this title today. In 1536 England and Wales became an official union. In 1603, England and Scotland also came under the same rule when James VI succeeded Elizabeth I, his cousin, to become James I of England. A little over 100 years later in 1707, England and Scotland became unified as Great Britain.

In the early 17th century Ireland became increasingly settled by people from Scotland and England and England sought control of the area (as it had for many centuries before). On January 1, 1801, a legislative union between Great Britain and Ireland took place and the region became known as the United Kingdom. However, throughout the 19th and 20th centuries, Ireland continuously fought for its independence. As a result in 1921, the Anglo-Irish Treaty established the Irish Free State (which later became an independent republic. Northern Ireland however, remained a part of the UK which is today made up of that region as well as England, Scotland, and Wales.

Government of the United Kingdom

Today the United Kingdom is considered a constitutional monarchy and a Commonwealth realm. Its official name is the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland (Great Britain includes England, Scotland, and Wales). The executive branch of the UK's government consists of a Chief of State (Queen Elizabeth II) and a head of government (a position filled by the Prime Minister). The legislative branch is made up of a bicameral Parliament consisting of the House of Lords and the House of Commons, while the UK's judicial branch includes the Supreme Court of the UK, the Senior Courts of England and Wales, Northern Ireland's Court of Judicature and Scotland's Court of Session and High Court of the Justiciary.

Economics and Land Use in the United Kingdom

The United Kingdom has the third largest economy in Europe (behind Germany and France) and it is one of the world's largest financial centers. The majority of the UK's economy is within the service and industrial sectors and agriculture jobs represent less than 2% of the workforce. The main industries of the UK are machine tools, electric power equipment, automation equipment, railroad equipment, shipbuilding, aircraft, motor vehicles, electronics and communications equipment, metals, chemicals, coal, petroleum, paper products, food processing, textiles, and clothing. The agricultural products of the UK are cereals, oilseed, potatoes, vegetables cattle, sheep, poultry and fish.

Geography and Climate of the United Kingdom

The United Kingdom is located in Western Europe to the northwest of France and between the North Atlantic Ocean and the North Sea. Its capital and largest city is London, but other large cities are Glasgow, Birmingham, Liverpool, and Edinburgh. The UK has a total area of 94,058 square miles (243,610 sq km). Much of the topography of the UK consists of rugged, undeveloped hills and low mountains but there are flat and gently rolling plains in the eastern and southeastern areas of the country. The highest point in the UK is Ben Nevis at 4,406 feet (1,343 m) and it is located in the northern UK in Scotland.

The climate of the UK is considered temperate despite its latitude. Its climate is moderated by its maritime location and the Gulf Stream. However, the UK is known for being very cloudy and rainy throughout much of the year. The western parts of the country are wettest and also windy, while the eastern portions are drier and less windy. London, located in England in the south of the UK, has an average January low temperature of 36˚F (2.4˚C) and a July average temperature of 73˚F (23˚C).


Central Intelligence Agency. (6 April 2011). CIA - The World Factbook - United Kingdom. Retrieved from: (n.d.). United Kingdom: History, Geography, Government, and Culture- Retrieved from:

United States Department of State. (14 December 2010). United Kingdom. Retrieved from: (16 April 2011). United Kingdom - Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved from:

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Briney, Amanda. "Geography of the United Kingdom." ThoughtCo, Feb. 16, 2021, Briney, Amanda. (2021, February 16). Geography of the United Kingdom. Retrieved from Briney, Amanda. "Geography of the United Kingdom." ThoughtCo. (accessed May 30, 2023).