The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland is an island group to the north of the continent of Europe. Britain, the largest island, includes the separate countries of England, Scotland to the north and Wales to the west. Smaller islands off the coast of Scotland include the Hebrides, the Orkney Islands and the Shetland Islands. Islands to the south are the Isle of Wight, the Scilly Isles, and the Channel Islands of Guernsey, Jersey and Sark. To the west of Wales lies Ireland, divided into Ireland in the south and Northern Ireland or Ulster in the north. The Isle of Man lies between Northern Ireland and Britain.
London, on the River Thames, is the capital city. Important cities in England are Birmingham, Bristol, Liverpool on the River Mersey, Manchester and Newcastle on the River Tyne. Edinburgh is the capital of Scotland with Glasgow the second most important city. Cardiff is the capital of Wales, Swansea its second city and Belfast the capital of Northern Ireland.
The landscape is very varied. Scotland and Wales are mountainous with Ben Nevis (Scotland) and Snowdon (Wales) respectively the highest and second highest peaks in the UK. Although thousands of years of human activity have removed most of the original forests, Kielder Forest in Northumberland, the New Forest in Hampshire and others in Wales and Scotland are a substantial size.
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