The United Kingdom is a sovereign country that consists of England, Scotland and Wales on the island of Great Britain; Northern Ireland across the Irish Sea on the island of Ireland; and outlying island groups such as the Hebrides and the Shetlands. This small but mighty empire at one time ruled the seas and subsequently stretched to India, Asia, Africa, and the New World.
With its long history and long reach as a political, military, and commercial power, the United Kingdom is now, not surprisingly, storehouse to priceless treasures, both from home and abroad. These include the artwork and artifacts found in the British Museum; Bronze Age and Viking finds in Scotland; Bronze Age gold work and decorative arts from Wales; and standing stones and Celtic metalwork in Northern Ireland;.
The UK is also known for its rolling, green landscapes, its classic and idiosyncratic architecture, its mania for gardening; and its many “folk” traditions, including pagan feasts and ceremonies from its agrarian past, that make it an endlessly fascinating destination for the tourist or business traveler.
London, the capital, is home to museums, major department stores, perhaps the world’s finest tailors, the London Eye Ferris wheel, the City financial center, the Houses of Parliament, Buckingham Palace, and the Tower of London—home to the Crown Jewels, the Beefeaters, and the ravens whose presence purportedly “keeps the Crown from falling.”
In Scotland, both Edinburgh, the capital, and Glasgow reflect Lowland Scottish culture, with castles, museums, city and countryside tours, and chances to dine on the national dish—haggis. Highland cities, such as Inverness, represent the more martial aspects of early Scottish life. Cardiff, the capital of Wales, lies perched on the edge of the Atlantic. A cultural powerhouse, it features opera, orchestra, theater, and dance companies. Belfast, the once strife-torn capital of Northern Ireland, is now an energized port city with top accommodations. The birthplace of the Titanic, it offers maritime and folk museums and citywide bus tours.