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The British Isles

The British Isles is a traditional term used to identify the group of islands of the northwest coast of Europe consisting of two large islands – Great Britain and Ireland, and the many smaller adjacent islands. These islands form a total area of 315,134 km2 (121,674 square miles). The Ireland is made up of the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland. The United Kingdom is made up of England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. Great Britain consists of England, Scotland and Wales and doesn’t include Northern Ireland.

Britain is comparatively small, but there is hardly a country in the world where such a variety of scenery can be found in so small a compass. There are wild desolate mountains in the northern Highlands of Scotland – the home of the deer and the eagles – which are as lonely as any in Norway. There are flat tulip fields round the Fens – a blaze of colour in spring, that would make you think you were in Holland.

The North Sea and the English Channel separate the British Isles from European continent. The Atlantic Ocean and the Irish Sea wash the western coast of Great Britain.

The seas round the British Isles are shallow.

On the north-west the coasts are broken by high rocky. This is especially noticeable in north-west Scotland, where you have long winding inlets, called “lochs”, and a grate many islands.

In Scotland you have three distinct regions. There are, firstly, the Highlands, and then there is the central plain or Lowlands. Finally there are the southern uplands, “the Scott country” with their gently rounded hills where the sheep wander. Here there are more sheep to the square mile than anywhere in the British Isles.

In England and Wales all the high land is in the west and northwest. The south-eastern plain reaches the West Coast only at one or two places – at the Bristol Channel and by the mouths of the rivers Dee and Mersey.

In the north you find the Cheviots, separating England from Scotland, the Pennines going down England like a backbone and the Cumbrian Mountains of the Lake District, one of the loveliest (and the wettest) parts of England. In the west is the Cambrian Mountains, which occupies the greater part of Wales.

The south-eastern part of England is a low-lying land with gentle hills and a coast which is regular in outline, sandy or muddy, with occasional chalk cliffs.

The position of the mountains naturally determined the direction and length of the rivers, and the longest rivers, except the Severn and Clyde, flow into the North Sea, and even the Severn flaws eastward or south-east for the greater part of it.

The rivers in Britain are of no great value as waterways – the longest, the Thames, is a little over 200 miles – and few of them are navigable except near the mouth for anything but the smaller vassels.

The climate of Britain is temperate, and although variations are noticeable, the country does not usually experience any extremes of heat or cold. The British never know what their weather is going to be like for two days running. Winter weather can be cloudy, damp and warm, sunny with frost and snow, or frosty and foggy. Summer weather can be chilly and damp, or hot and sticky, or, on a few glorious days each year, brilliantly sunny and warm with a flawless blue sky.

*Sources: "The British Isles" by C. E. Eckersley & Internet

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