The United Kingdom is a dense, multicultural nation with a rich history and a huge variety of landmarks and communities. From the mile-a-minute pace of London to the timeless majesty of the Scottish highlands, the UK goes beyond simple descriptions and categorizations. It is home to some of the most recognizable icons in the world – Stonehenge, Big Ben, Shakespeare, the Beatles – but it also has its own culture and lifestyle, which outsiders are less likely to see.
The UK is a union of four countries – England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland – each of which has its own distinct character and culture. England is the political center of the country, and its cities tend to be the largest and most industrial. Scotland is more rugged and wild in many respects, but has also produced some of the nation’s most cultivated minds – from philosophers like David Hume and Adam Smith to inventors like Alexander Graham Bell. Wales is far more sparsely populated, and has very few large cities, but has a wealth of pastoral scenery and some spectacularly beautiful churches. Finally, Northern Ireland contains a fascinating and fertile mix of Irish and British cultures. Although it was once a scene of perpetual conflict between the two communities, Northern Ireland is now known as a wonderland of natural splendor, and its capital, Belfast, is rapidly developing into a world-class city in its own right.
The UK is highly developed and modern, even in the more rural areas. Trains (themselves a British invention from the 1820s) rattle from coast to coast, bringing people and goods to even the most far-flung reaches of the country. This, along with its welcoming culture and the widespread use of the English language, makes the UK one of the world’s premiere travel destinations.