The United Kingdom

The United Kingdom – most people in our country do not know the correct name!


  1. Look at this packaging, what does it tell people about life in Wales? Note down at least five things.
  2. Are they a good description of the Wales where you live?


map flag


In 2014 a big news event was the referendum in Scotland. A referendum is a vote on an important decision. Scotland voted to stay as part of the United Kingdom and not become an independent country.

In 2015 the biggest news event will probably be the general election in May. A general election in the United Kingdom is when we vote for the 650 M.P.s who make up the U.K. Parliament. An M.P. is a Member of Parliament and Parliament is the name of the place that our M.P.s go to in London to run the United Kingdom.

We often call our country the United Kingdom, U.K., Britain or Great Britain however officially it is called The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.

  • The United Kingdom began with Acts of Union of 1536 and 1543 between Wales and England; these were the first two countries to become united.
  • In 1707 the parliaments of Scotland and England & Wales passed the Act of Union and we became the Kingdom of Great Britain.
  • In 1801 the Acts of Union between the Kingdom of Great Britain and the Kingdom of Ireland formed The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland.
  • In 1922 most of Ireland became an independent country (only Northern Ireland did not) and we became The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.

The United kingdom is made up of Wales, Scotland, Northern Ireland and England (sometimes called the home countries or home nations), however around the world there are other places which are not part of The United Kingdom but that the United Kingdom has sovereignty (control) over; some are called Crown dependencies and some are called British Overseas Territories. 

  • The Crown dependencies are:
    •   Jersey
    •   Guernsey
    •   Isle of Man.
  •  The 14 British Overseas Territories are:

Anguilla; Bermuda; the British Antarctic Territory; the British Indian Ocean Territory; the British Virgin Islands; the Cayman Islands; the Falkland Islands; Gibraltar; Montserrat; Saint Helena, Ascension and Tristan da Cunha; the Turks and Caicos Islands; the Pitcairn Islands; South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands; and Sovereign Base Areas on Cyprus. Most of these are parts of the British Empire which chose not to become independent though some are part of negotiated treaties with another country.



The map shows the extent of the British Empire, most of the countries of the British Empire became independent countries after the end of the second world war. Many of these countries joined The Commonwealth of Nations which today has 53 member countries, most were part of the British Empire or have a strong connection to an existing member that was. As well as cultural activities such as the Commonwealth Games, member states try to work together to help each other and encourage ideas such as democracy and freedom.

The Physical Geography of The United Kingdom


This is a photo of the United Kingdom taken from space. In it we can see a lot of physical geography; physical geography is the natural stuff that would be there even without any people.

With your friends try to name the following places on the image use an atlas (book or online) to help you:

The Four Home Countries:

  • Wales
  • Scotland
  • Northern Ireland
  • England

Around The Coastline


  • Isle of Anglesey (biggest in Wales)
  • Isle of Wight (biggest in England)
  • Lewis with Harris (biggest in U.K.)
  • Isle of Man


  • Bristol Channel/Severn Estuary
  • Cardigan Bay
  • Thames Estuary

Other Major Coastal Locations

  • Gower Peninsula (peninsula = area of land surround by water on three sides)
  • LLŷn Peninsula
  • John o’ Groats
  • Land’s End

The Biggest Lake

  • Lough Neagh



This is a map showing relief; relief is the about how high the land surface is or how flat or steep it is.

Again try to identify the following areas - first from any you already know and then using an atlas or online atlas:

  • Snowdonia
  • Brecon Beacons
  • Cairngorms
  • Scottish Highlands
  • Lake District
  • Dartmoor
  • Mourne Mountains

The lowest point in the U.K. are The Fens of East Anglia which are 4 metres below sea level:

  • The Fens

Try to find out how height in metres of the following highest mountains in each of the home countries. 



Height (metres)


Ben Nevis

Find This Out



Find This Out


Scafell Pike

Find This Out

Northern Ireland

Slieve Donard

Find This Out


Rivers are another important part of physical geography.  Try to complete the table below by finding out the length in km.



Length (km)

U.K. (through England & Wales)

River Severn

Find This Out


River Thames

Find This Out


River Tywi

Find This Out


River Tay

Find This Out

Northern Ireland

River Bann

Find This Out


Area is usually how much space there is on a flat surface.

The table below tells you this for each of the home countries. 




130,427 km2


78,772 km2


20,778 km2

Northern Ireland

13,843 km2

Total Area

Work This Out

There is an old joke which says:

‘That if Wales were flattened out it would be bigger than England’

This is NOT true but it makes us think that in a country like Wales with so many hills and mountains things are a different than in a much flatter country like England

Why is all of this important?

The physical geography affects your life or more importantly the quality of life.

Many people have the ‘Chocolate Box’ idea about life in Wales.

This means that they think that we live in that beautiful picture of mountains or sea that we might see on a box of chocolates or other sweets, especially the ones on sale to tourists.

But life is not like this, mountains, rivers, coastal inlets, islands and the ends of remote peninsulas like the Llŷn Peninsula, Gower Peninsula or most of Pembrokeshire all make it much further and more expensive to travel around or pay for things like hospitals and schools.

On average it is much more expensive to live in Wales than to live in England!

Key Aspects of the Human Geography of The United Kingdom

Human geography are the things that we find that humans are responsible for; major things like population (the number of people in a place or area), where people live (settlements), where people work or make money, how people get from one place to another (transport).

Population of the United Kingdom

Population means the number of people living in a place.

Every ten years the United Kingdom carries out a census, this is a detailed study of all the people in the country.

The last census was carried out in 2011 and the next one will be in 2021

Every home is given a big form to fill in about everyone who lives there.

The census is the main source of information about people living in the United Kingdom. This information is used in many aspects by our leaders for Decision Making.

Population in the United Kingdom









Northern Ireland


Total Population

Work This Out

The population of the United Kingdom is increasing at the moment and it will go up by around 10 million people over the next 20 years. Our leaders have to make plans for all of these extra people.


Settlement in geography means a place where people live; it could be a city, town or village. In geography we may describe a place as urban (mainly buildings like towns or cities) or rural (mainly countryside).

The 2011 census called big urban places built-up areas these can be found in the table. Most of the largest ones are conurbations (conurbation is the name that we give to areas where different towns and cities have grown together or merged).





Greater London* Built-up area



Greater Manchester Built-up area



West Midlands (around Birmingham) Built-up area



West Yorkshire (around Leeds) Built-up area






Liverpool Built-up area



South Hampshire (around Southampton) Built-up area



Tyneside (around Newcastle) Built-up area



Nottingham Built-up area



Sheffield Built-up area



Bristol Built-up area









Cardiff* Built-up area



Newport Built-up area



Swansea Built-up area



Wrexham (not ranked)


* indicates a capital city of a home nation

The Census showed that overall 81.5% of the people living in England and Wales combined were in urban areas, however this figure was only 67% for Wales. This means that around 15% more people in Wales live in rural areas compared to England.

"So what?" You will probably ask.

It is much more expensive to provide services such as health and education in a rural area than in an urban area.

Very simply it costs more per person to provide for people in Wales than it does to provide for people in England.

Discuss and Decide – Suggest some reasons why it is more expensive to provide services in a rural area than in an urban area.


Transport is a major part of human geography, think about the following information; according to www.DistanceBetween.com it is 132 miles from Cardiff to London in a straight line. It is 139 miles from Cardiff to Holyhead which is our main port for trade with Ireland and Northern Ireland.

At 5pm on a Tuesday night Google maps estimated this journey to take 2 hours and 59 minutes to travel from Cardiff to London by car. At the same time it estimated the journey between Cardiff and Holyhead to take 4 hours and 41 minutes by car.

Discuss and Decide

The simple answer is the relief; remember Wales has so many mountains and to get from Cardiff to Holyhead, the route means going through the Brecon Beacons, the Cambrian Mountains and finally Snowdonia. It is very expensive to build new roads through such relief so the journey is along older, smaller roads going around hills and mountains.



Work and employment are a big part of human geography. In Wales we face a number of challenges which increase the needs of the people living here.

Until 30 years ago many jobs in Wales involved coal mining, steel production and heavy engineering.

These jobs could affect the health of workers in terrible ways; partly due to many people over the age of 55 having increased health problems and in some areas the levels of disability are far higher than U.K. averages.

Many of these jobs such as coal mining and steel making were found in places because coal and iron were under the ground. 


Many of our towns grew up around these old jobs; as the jobs closed down our towns were just in the wrong places for most of the newer types of jobs. The result of this is that people may either have had to travel long distances each day to work or worse be trapped in a place where there are very few well-paying jobs or in some places any jobs at all.

Decision Making Exercise

First try to read and finish all three articles and the activity sheet.

The Welsh Government have asked you to produce a geography guide for voters in Wales to understand the big battles in this year’s general election.

Fair Funding

Decide (give reasons why you chose your option and did not choose the others) and advise whether the U.K. government in London should give money for Wales as one of the following: 

  • More money to Wales (same as Scotland) so that the people of Wales have the same amount of money each that they would get as if Wales were a part of England.
  • Less money to Wales so that it is the same per person as in England where needs are much lower.
  • Things should stay the same.

EU Referendum

Decide (give reasons why you chose your option and did not choose the others) and:

  • Advise on likely impacts in Wales if the U.K. should leave the European Union.
  • Advise on likely impacts in Wales if the U.K. should stay in the European Union.

 Parliamentary Reform

Decide (give reasons why you chose your option and did not choose the others) and:

  • Advise on the likely impacts in Wales if the U.K. Parliament should have just English Votes for English Matters.

Advise on the likely impacts in Wales if the number U.K. Parliament MP’s should drop from 40 out of 650 to just 18 out of 650.

The resource is designed to be used as whole class resource from the front of the classroom on the projector/interactive whiteboard. The various graphics should be supported by teacher exposition based on the text which will not be readable in permitted time to the vast majority of pupils), following this it is ideal that the students have access to the online resource in order to work on the activity sheet (designed to be printed on A3 size paper). Ideally these activities will be supported by the use of a network room, tablets/laptops or students own phones if permitted. However the activities are also designed to be used in a typical one hour lesson with the teacher input using the resource from the front of the classroom alongside the resource sheet. Students can then be set a homework task to study the three articles in advance of the following lesson.

The resource and accompanying sheet is designed to support the LNF framework while giving students key geographical knowledge (elements of the cultural literacy as put forward by E.D. Hirsch and driving much of the ideological change in the English curriculum) about places in order to make an informed decision on a very important real life and big current news issue – fair funding for Wales.

Either in class or at home read and try to finish all of the activities. 

What you will learn:

  • You will increase your knowledge about different places
  • You will increase your understanding of how these differences in places affect human beings and human geography
  • You will have you the opportunity to learn or practice important literacy and numeracy skills.
  • You will learn and gain experience in decision making

You will learn new geographical terms highlighted in purple these should be learned and added to a glossary. A glossary is a list of words and their meanings. You could have one in the back of your geography exercise book, if you have a planner it is probably a good place to keep a glossary, or you may keep a separate glossary or word book. A good glossary helps you build your vocabulary and your literacy.


Related Articles...

How does the UK work?

How does the UK work?

Wales in the UK

Wales in the UK