10 Things You Didn’t Know About The United Kingdom

The United Kingdom used to be two little islands that, until England was connected to France by the channel tunnel, were quite happy as a self contained unit, complete with their own laws and idiosyncrasies.  With history that goes back for what seems like forever, you have to expect one or two rules, regulations and laws that are going to be a little eccentric.

There have been many rulers of this little island and as can be expected, all were keen to make their mark in one way or another – this is how the UK has ended up having so many ridiculously inane and archaic laws, a great amount of which, incredibly, are still applicable today.

There are also some odd facts that you would not expect would apply to such a relatively small place as the United Kingdom.  Some are more believable than others, but nevertheless, all are true and the list below gives several examples, including some of the more ridiculous entries that the population of the UK has had to endure over the years.

1.  There’s a team dedicated to finding unbelievable UK laws

Image:  sbisson (Flickr)

Image:  Colin Smith (Wikipedia)

As if to realise its own folly, the UK’s Law Commission has within it a unit called the Law Revision team.  These people have the less than enviable job of sifting diligently through historic, legal paperwork to find outdated and ridiculous laws.

It is the team’s job to make some semblance of order to this legal lunacy, contemplating the future of these sometimes hilarious offerings and since 1965, the team have worked their way through mountains of paperwork and abolished around 2,000 laws.

2.  London has the world’s busiest airport system

Image:  Edward (geograph)

Image:  Ian Britton (freefoto)

Strange as it may seem, London has the busiest city airport system in the whole world.  Although Heathrow is only the third busiest in the world alone, by passenger numbers, the airport systems records refer to the combined figures for all of the airports within the city or metropolitan area.

To this end, London comes out at the top of the list as it has a total of six individual airports, although that figure pales into insignificance when you consider that there are in fact a total of 471 airfields and airports within the UK, along with 11 heliports.

3.  The UK is more than just England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales

Image:  David Dixon (geograph)

Image:  Wikipedia

The UK – the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, to give it its full title – is commonly thought to consist of England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales.  Although this is true, there is also the little matter of the overseas territories that come under its umbrella.

In all, there is a total of 14 other UK territories, which are the long, distant remnants of the once mighty British Empire, which at one time spanned massive parts of the globe.  These territories vary in size drastically, from the British Antarctic Territory in Antarctica at 660,000 square miles to Gibraltar at a mere 2.5 square miles.

4.  The Queen isn’t freely allowed into London

Image:  Hywel Williams (geograph)

Image:  Ian Britton (freefoto)

The sovereign of the United Kingdom you might imagine could, if they so desired, go anywhere in the country they wanted to.  Alas, this is not so, as even the current monarch, Queen Elizabeth II, cannot enter the City of London without the express permission of the Lord Mayor.

5.  It is divided into almost 100 individual counties

Image:  Wikipedia

Image:  Anthony Dodd (fotopedia)

For what is, to all intents and purposes, a very small place, the UK has an absolute abundance of regional counties – 92 in total.  These range from the largest, Yorkshire in England at 6,066 square miles to Clackmannanshire in Scotland at a somewhat smaller 48 square miles.

It doesn’t end there either, as within these boundaries there are Assemblies, Authorities, Councils, County Councils, District Councils, County Borough Councils, City Councils and City County Councils – and when you get passed these, you are then under the jurisdiction of Town Councils or Parish Councils – and each area has its own dedicated council building, generally one that is either rather elaborate or nothing more than a 1960’s concrete ‘block’.

6.  It’s home to the Lake District…which is only home to one lake

Image:  Malcolm Morris (geograph)

Image:  Neil Hanson (geograph)

In the North West of England, you will find the Lake District National Park and within its boundaries, some of the most stunning scenery in the whole of the world. It has a total of 92 bodies of water, such as tarns, meres and reservoirs, but oddly enough, only one that is actually known as a lake – Bassenthwaite Lake.

There are the likes of Derwent Water, Wast Water, Ullswater, along with Windermere, Thirlmere and Grasmere.  Then there are Alcock Tarn and Yew Tree Tarn – and plenty in between – but considering it’s called the Lake District, there’s just the one lake.

Irrelevant of the names of the waters, however, the whole area is nothing short of awe inspiring.

7.  It has only had nine monarchs

Image:  ell brown (Flickr)

Image:  edsowden.wordpress.com

Although the individual countries are centuries old, the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland was only born on the 1st May 1707, although it has been amended twice (first in 1801 and again in 1922).  During this period, there have only been nine monarchs on the throne as rulers of the kingdom. – four Georges (3rd, 4th, 5th and 6th); two Edwards (7th and 8th); one William (4th), one Victoria and the current Queen Elizabeth (2nd).

8.  The UK sees tourists equivalent to 50% of its population

Image:  Nigel Chadwick (geograph)

Image:  Anthony Dodd (fotopedia)

For what, in comparison to Australia or the United States, is a very small place, the UK has more than its fair share of overseas visitors.  It is estimated that somewhere in the region of 30 million people make the trip every year, more often than not for the sights as opposed to the weather.

There is so much to see no matter which part of the United Kingdom you visit, but it is fair to say that London does attract the most tourists and it appears that it is the historical aspect that appeals to most, due largely to it having a considerably older history than many other countries in the world.

9.  Surfing is a popular pastime

Image:  Jim Champion (geograph)

Image:  Chris Allen (geograph)

Believe it or not, you can actually go surfing in the UK and although you are not going to get the waves that you might in some of the more famous surfing locations around the world, it is a very popular pastime with a growing number of people who are more than keen to emulate their stateside cousins, particularly in the Devon and Cornwall regions of England.

Before you pack your board and shorts however, it is worth noting that the weather in the UK is probably going to be a little different to what you are used to if you’re an avid surfer – apparently the best time to surf in the UK is not the hot, balmy days of summer with the sun on your back, but the colder autumn months.

10.  The movies exaggerate.  A lot.

Image:  Oast House Archive (geograph)

Image:  Stephen Richards (geograph)

Contrary to what appears to be popular belief, not everyone in the UK talks like the Queen or James Bond for that matter.  Neither does the normal person live in a house anything like what would be considered a castle, a manor or stately home.

The land is not crowded with grinding mills with folk doffing their hats or tugging their forelocks at the landed gentry and no matter what you have been told, everyone does not sound like Dick van Dyke in the film Mary Poppins, either.

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