The United Kingdom is one of the most renowned countries in the world and despite the status that it holds, there is still a lot that people don’t know about it. Having covered almost 25% of the world’s land surface at one point, the British Empire at its height spread across numerous continents including North America, Africa, Asia and Australia.
The nation recently made headlines for having left the EU to begin a new chapter in its vibrant journey over the years.
Whether you are a student moving to the UK for a degree, a tourist planning a tour or just someone who is fascinated by the country, there is so much to learn about it. Covering nearly 240,000 km2 in area today, Great Britain and Northern Ireland are islands located in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean.
The Irish Sea splits the islands of Great Britain and Ireland giving both regions diverse natural landscapes and shorelines. The Republic of Ireland, formerly Southern Ireland, became a free state in 1922.
Here are some fascinating facts about the United Kingdom that you probably didn’t know:
Surprising Facts about the United Kingdom
1. The capital of Great Britain is home to a diverse population
London, one of the biggest cities in the United Kingdom is also its capital. The city earned this title when the Palace of Westminster was developed in the 12th and 13th century, making it the permanent location of the royal court.
Before London, Winchester served as the capital of the country but for a long time, rulers of the United Kingdom have given the city extension attention.
With over 8 million citizens speaking nearly 300 languages, London is easily one of the most diverse cities on the planet.
2. The very first postage stamp was made in the UK
Postage stamps have been the hallmark of mail services across the world. These crucial instruments originated in the UK when the first one was made in May of 1840.
It had a picture of Queen Victoria, who ruled England at that time. Since then, almost every country in the world has introduced its own postage stamps and even though mail services are becoming obsolete due to social media, millions of goods are still shipped around the globe through postage stamps.
3. The legendary Stonehenge is one of the oldest monuments in the world
Although the exact function and legacy behind these ruins is still under debate, there is no denying the fact that they are one of the oldest man-made structures that still exist.
The monument of Stonehenge is believed to have been built in 3,000 BC and it became a World Heritage Site in 1986.
They are the only remaining monument that is listed in the Seven Wonder of the World and have inspired numerous legends and folklore that are still told across the UK.
4. Golf is a Scottish invention
Golf is easily one of the most renowned and popular sports anywhere in the world with more than 60 million people playing it on a regular basis. It is common in almost every corner of the globe.
However, the sport was invented in Scotland and is considered a national game today. Sources state that the origins of golf date back to 1457 and interestingly, it became so common that James II had it banned as it would frequently interrupt army practices during the time.
5. The UK’s Channel Tunnel is the second largest underground tunnel in the world
Connecting the city of Dover (UK) with Calais (France), the tunnel runs for 21 miles under the sea making it a marvel of man’s creation on Planet Earth.
It is only second to the Lærdal Tunnel in Norway that runs for 24.5 km under stone mountains.
The world’s largest tunnel in terms of length is the Gotthard Base Tunnel in Switzerland but it is only used by trains but the Channel Tunnel is a road which can accommodate cars as well.
6. Brits have voted Chicken Tikka to be their national dish
Chicken Tikka is delicious and everything but there is just one slight problem with it; the food is actually an Indian recipe that has nothing to do with the United Kingdom.
The most traditional food in the UK is roast and Yorkshire beef but somehow, the local population has voted to give the title of their national dish to a recipe that originated in a former British colony, almost halfway across the world.
Another interesting fact is that there are more Indian restaurants in London than urban centers like New Delhi and Mumbai.
7. Britain has a long legacy of Royals
Royalty in Britain is still a much revered concept and although the roles don’t exist in most countries of the world, the nation continues to make an exception.
Queen Elizabeth is currently the longest-reigning Queen anywhere across the planet. Moreover, the royal family still resides in Windsor Castle which is now the oldest royal residence in the world too.
8. Over 50 designs were submitted for London’s Tower Bridge
In 1876, the City of London Corporation was planning to build a bridge connecting both sides of the Thames.
A competition was initiated for designs to be submitted for said bridge. More than 50 were received but none of them were chosen.
Finally, in 1884, the design by Sir Horace Jones and civil engineer Sir John Wolfe Barry was selected as the winner. Today, London’s Tower Bridge is one of the most iconic sights in the city.
9. Oxford University is one of the oldest educational institutions in the world
Founded in 1096, the University of Oxford is one of the most distinguished schools in the world. It has a rich history and has been one of the top educational institutions anywhere in the world.
A surprising fact about the university that most people don’t know is that until 1877, its lecturers were not allowed to get married.
10. No mountains in Britain are higher than 1000 meters and there are no volcanoes either
The United Kingdom has a beautiful landscape especially towards the countryside where there are luscious green fields, cliffs and mountains.
However, the country has no mountains that are above 1000 meters in height. At the same time, the country doesn’t have any active volcanoes which is a natural anomaly in most cases.
11. London has over 170 museums
The United Kingdom has a vibrant and fascinating history. The country even has a university that has been around for more than a century.
This long-running past has a lot of happenings which need to be preserved.
That is why London alone houses more than 170 museums that showcase various times, aspects, and events in history. These include the Victoria and Albert Museum, The British Museum, and the London Transport Museum to name a few.
12. The London Eye is not the first to be built in the UK
Before the London Eye became the famous landmark that it is, there was another attraction that had similar visuals and function.
This structure was known as the ‘Great Wheel’ and construction was completed in 1895. It was inaugurated for the Empire of India Exhibition. Unfortunately, the building was demolished in 1907 after the company that owned it no longer found it profitable to run.
13. UK has one of the most extensive railway networks in the world
Given its vibrant history, it comes as no surprise that railway networks within the country are some of the most elaborate anywhere in the world.
These systems have been modernized over time but they are still ranked as the 17th largest railway network connecting various cities across the country and even other nations to the UK.
14. The United Kingdom has less English speakers than a host of smaller Asia countries
A general perception about the UK is that it must be an English speaking country.
However, the diversity that exists in the land means that countries like the US, Pakistan, India, Philippines and even Nigeria have more native English speakers than the UK.
15. The legend behind Scotland’s flag is an interesting one
According to ancient tradition, the Scottish flag has a white cross over a blue background as it symbolizes the angelic formation of clouds that occurred when the natives of Scotland were fighting the Angles, a Germanic invading tribe during the most ancient days.
Top 10 Facts about the United Kingdom
If you are interested in learning more about the UK through a video, as these are the most common type of visuals, here is a comprehensive video that can provide you a lot of insights regarding the country.
The United Kingdom, England, or Britain, whatever you choose to call it, has a long, and rich history with a fascinating infrastructure according to modern standards too. It is an amazing country to visit or live in given that it’s a diverse land of people and opportunities.
Hi I’m Jay. I grew up in Seattle, Washington and live in Los Angeles, California. I have travelled to 23 countries so far and planning to go explore more countries soon! My Favorite trips so far have been to Israel, Japan, Rome, Iceland and Australia. I started this site to share my love of travel with everyone and build a community of like-minded, free thinking, free exploring people.