Common UK Facts You Should Know
One of the most important geographic facts about the UK to know is – The United Kingdom consists of the countries England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland. The Republic of Ireland is a separate country and not part of the UK.
The UK is one of the most popular destinations for tourists and a powerful economic leader, but what makes this country so fascinating? Here are 30 fun facts about the UK you might not know.
Interesting Historical Facts About the UK
Greenwich Mean Time was the first time zone.
The most impressive Britain facts are historical achievements.
Greenwich Mean Time (GMT) is the name of the time zone that the UK operates within. It was created to help mariners but became the first standard time zone across the world before Coordinated Universal Time was introduced.
It traditionally refers to the time when the sun passes over the Royal Observatory in Greenwich. However, this typically occurs within 16 minutes on either side of noon, rather than at 12pm exactly.
There are 14 UK Overseas Territories.
One of the fun UK facts is that the UK does not just comprise the major countries mentioned. It also has overseas territories spread across the world.
The British Empire colonized almost a quarter of the world during the 16th – 19th centuries. Despite most countries regaining independence, 14 former colonies still have constitutional ties to the UK.
They are self-governed and not part of the UK, but the Monarch is their head of state. The biggest territories are Bermuda, the British Virgin Islands, the Cayman Islands, and Gibraltar.
Vaccines were invented in the UK.
Edward Jenner invented the first ever vaccine in London in 1796. It was the smallpox vaccine, which saved hundreds of thousands of lives.
Jenner was a doctor and discovered the vaccine after noticing that milkmaids appeared to be immune to smallpox. He realized that many of them already had cowpox, and used the pus from their blisters to create his vaccine.
The UK left the European Union in 2020.
After a controversial 2016 referendum where 48.1% of voters chose to remain, the UK agreed to leave the EU after being a member for almost 50 years. It took four years before an agreement was reached and the UK officially left in 2020.
Britain’s exit, nicknamed Brexit by the media, remains one of the most heated political debates in the country because of the close result. It will likely go down in history as one of the most significant events and historic facts in the UK.
London Zoo was the world’s first.
London Zoo was founded in 1828 as a scientific research project before opening as a public attraction in 1847. Before animal welfare became a priority, the zoo homed dangerous wild animals including grizzly bears and black bears.
The zoo is still open today and has 19,289 individual animals, across 673 species. Head to Regent’s Park and you’ll often see a giraffe pop its head up! It is one of the proud landmarks in London.
The UK fought the shortest ever war.
In 1896, a war broke out between the UK and the Zanzibar Sultanate. It lasted approximately 40 minutes until Zanzibar surrendered, making it officially the shortest war ever.
Only one sailor from the UK suffered injuries but over 500 Zanzibaris, mostly civilians recruited to help fight, were wounded.
The Great Plague of London killed 100,000 people.
Between 1665 and 1666, over a quarter of the population of London was wiped out by The Great Plague. It was a pandemic of bubonic plague caused by bacteria transmitted by rat flea bites. It spread rapidly due to poor hygiene standards at the time and limited access to healthcare.
Cultural Facts About the UK
The UK’s flag is the Union Jack.
The official flag of the United Kingdom is the Union Jack, which is two red and white crosses on a navy background.
An interesting fact about the UK flag is that the design is a combination of the flags of St George, St Andrew, and St Patrick – representing a united England, Scotland, and Northern Ireland.
The Welsh flag isn’t represented because it was already united with England when the flag was created in 1606, whereas the other countries were separate principalities.
Christianity is the dominant religion.
Although the United Kingdom is one of the most secular countries in the world, it was largely a Christian country for the past 1,000 years.
Christianity remains the most common religion in the UK and the Church of England is the state church, but more people have identified as atheists in recent decades.
The second biggest religion is Islam, followed by Hinduism, Sikhism, Judaism, and Buddhism.
UK workers get Bank Holidays.
There are eight bank holidays every year in the UK, which employees get to take off work. They are named because most businesses close these days, even banks.
Apart from Christmas Day, Boxing Day, and New Year’s Day, there are several other bank holidays in recognition of Easter and Saints days. Additional Bank Holidays are sometimes granted to mark special days relating to the Monarch.
It is an important fact about the UK to know when traveling so you are prepared for shop closures during the major holidays. Although Pubs typically remain open so it’s traditional to go for a beer!
Bonfire Night marks a foiled treason plot.
Bonfire Night is celebrated every year on the 5th of November in the UK. It commemorates the Gunpowder Plot of 1605 – a failed attempt to assassinate King James I.
A gang of English Catholics, led by Guy Fawkes, plotted to blow up Parliament. Fortunately, they were caught and the plan was foiled. It’s still a tradition to burn effigies of Fawkes and light fireworks to celebrate the survival of the King. These interesting events are some of the reasons to visit UK cities like London in November.
The UK holds some strange World Records.
If you’re interested in funny British facts, look no further than the Guinness Book of World Records. Some of the world records held in the UK include the largest external foot rotation (157 degrees) and the fastest piggyback (1.6km in 11 minutes, 11 seconds).
More unusual records include the most baked beans eaten with chopsticks in one minute (71) and the biggest Lego Batmobile figure (5.51 meters long).
Oxford is the oldest university in the UK.
The University of Oxford was established in 1096. It’s the UK’s oldest university and the second-oldest in the world. It’s known as the most prestigious academic establishment in the country.
It has produced an extensive list of alumni, most notably many British Prime Ministers. Some of its other famous alumni include T S Eliot, Emily Davison, Hugh Grant, Stephen Hawking, and Rupert Murdoch.
UK Facts About People and Demographics
The population is 67 million.
The UK population has grown every year since 1982 and is projected to increase by a further 2 million over the next 10 years. There are approximately 27.8 million households. Despite the continual increase, the birth rate is currently just 1.61 per woman.
The biggest factor driving population increase is migration. The UK is generally a safe, healthy, and wealthy country, which makes it an attractive destination for economic migrants. It has also taken in many refugees who were displaced after the wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Ukraine.
The average life expectancy is 81 years old.
The UK ranks 28th in the world with an average life expectancy of 81. For men, it’s 79, with women living slightly longer to 83. However, there are currently over 600,000 people over the age of 90. The UK has an aging population, with over 23% of people over the age of 60.
The country with the oldest average life expectancy is Japan, at 85. The Central African Republic has the lowest at just 54.
Multiple languages are spoken.
Unsurprisingly, English is the most commonly spoken language – by 98% of the population. People across all four countries speak English and around 151,000 speak British Sign Language.
One of the fun facts about the UK though is that each country also has its official and recognized languages.
Welsh is the official language of Wales, but most road signs display both Welsh and English. In Northern Ireland, Irish-Gaelic and Ulster-Scots are recognized languages but are only spoken by 6% of the population. A small number of people in Scotland also speak Scots and Scottish-Gaelic.
Due to a steady influx of immigrants since WWII, foreign languages commonly spoken include Polish, Bengali, and Arabic.
The UK is 84.8% White.
The most common ethnicity in the UK is White – about 84.8% of the population. The least ethnically diverse region is the North East, where an estimated 93.1% of the population is White.
London is significantly more diverse than the rest of the country. The biggest ethnic groups in the capital are White British (43.4%), Other White (14.6%), Black African (7.9%), and Indian (7%).
Housing is very expensive.
One of the more frustrating UK facts for locals is that London is one of the most expensive places in the world to buy a property. The city is home to many global businesses and celebrities, making homes highly desirable.
The average price of a home in London is £704,979. Apartments averaged £541,405, while semi-detached homes averaged £788,294.
In comparison, terraced homes in the North East of England cost just £135,812 on average, making it the cheapest area to buy in.
Interesting Facts About The UK For Tourists
Game of Thrones was filmed in Northern Ireland.
Northern Ireland’s rugged landscape makes it a popular filming location for programs and films set in the past. Game of Thrones fans will recognize Ballintoy Harbour, Magheramourne Quarry, Dunluce Castle, and the Dark Hedges.
Other popular TV shows filmed here include Derry Girls, Bloodlands, Line of Duty, and Conversations with Friends. One of the most interesting facts about the UK is you can find tours related to various famous movies and dramas that are filmed in the region.
The most famous being the Harry Potter tours. You can imagine why the UK is a fun destination for film lovers.
The UK’s highest point is Ben Nevis.
On the other hand, here is an exciting fact about the UK for adventure seekers. The famous Scottish mountain, Ben Nevis, is 1,345 meters above sea level – making it the tallest point in the UK. It’s a popular tourist destination and attracts around 130,000 climbers every year.
It has 700-meter drops from sheer cliff edges because it was created naturally after a volcano erupted and collapsed in on itself millions of years ago.
The Shard is the UK’s tallest skyscraper.
The Shard is an iconic landmark on London’s skyline. It was designed in 1998 but not completed until 2013. It stands at 309.6 meters tall, making it the tallest building in the UK and the second-tallest free-standing building in the world.
The skyscraper has 72 stories, which contain a viewing platform, restaurants, apartments, and offices. Definitely an activity to consider among the many popular things to do in London.
The longest town name in the UK is Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwlllllandysiliogogogoch.
Certainly one of the funny facts about the UK. Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwlllllandysiliogogogoch is the longest place name not just in the UK but in Europe.
The only longer single-word place name in the world is Taumatawhakatangihangakoauauotamateaturipukakapikimaungahoronukupokaiwhenuakitanatahu, in New Zealand.
Yes, seriously, those keyboard smashes are real places!
The town is on the island of Anglesey, off the coast of Wales. Its original name was Llanfairpwllgwyngyll, and locals still use this name, but the long version was created in the 19th century to attract tourists.
There are over 170 museums in London.
London is home to a vast range of fascinating museums, which are a great way to learn more fun facts about the UK. Some of the most popular museums are the Victoria and Albert, the Tate Modern, and the British Museum.
If you’re interested in more obscure collections, visit the Jack the Ripper Museum, the Vagina Museum, or the Fan Museum!
Edinburgh has the most listed buildings.
The old and new towns of Edinburgh, the capital of Scotland, form a 3.2-kilometer UNESCO World Heritage Site. You’ll find more listed buildings here than in any other city in the world.
Over 75% of the buildings are listed, making it a beautiful place to explore. Many of them stand amongst the famous landmarks in Edinburgh.
If you’re a Harry Potter fan you must visit West Bow, the street that inspired Diagon Alley. It’s also worth visiting Calton Hill to see the Nelson Monument.
Fun Facts of the UK
There’s rumored to be a monster in Loch Ness.
The Loch Ness Monster is a well-known mythical creature in Scottish folklore. Nessie has never been photographed, but she’s thought to look like a cross between a dinosaur and a serpent, with a long neck and a humped back.
Although no one has ever seen the monster, tourists still flock to Loch Ness hoping to catch the first glimpse. This is one of the most famous natural landmarks in Scotland. The lake cruise is an extremely popular activity for visitors that is not to be missed.
It’s illegal to kill swans.
One of the more random UK facts is that the Monarch owns every wild mute swan in the country and it’s a crime to kill one. Unlike other quirky old laws in the UK, this one is taken very seriously and people are prosecuted over it.
Capturing a mute swan is also considered theft and you could be fined £5,000! The law only applies to the mute species of swan so other varieties aren’t protected.
Scotland is famous for its whisky.
There are 134 whisky distilleries in Scotland, which is famous for producing Scotch whisky. It’s traditionally made from malted barley and is aged for three years in an oak barrel before it’s ready to drink. The word whisky means “water of life” in Scots-Gaelic.
One of the lesser-known facts about the UK is that Scotland also produces 75% of the kingdom’s gin. Alcohol is a central part of the UK’s culture and economy.
You might have also noticed another fun fact about Scotland. The famous Scottish Whisky is spelled without an ‘e’ (Whiskey).
You can take a 90-second flight.
The shortest passenger flight in the world is the Orkney Inter-Island service between the Scottish islands of Westray and Papa Westray. It spends just 90 seconds in the air. There are several tiny islands in the area and flights are regular, so you can easily fly between them all to explore.
Wales has 3 times more sheep than people.
One of the most interesting facts about the UK to know is that there are more sheep than humans in Wales. The human population of Wales is 3.1 million, but there are an estimated 10 million sheep!
Wales also has more castles than any other country in the world per square mile – over 600. The biggest is Caerphilly Castle, which is Europe’s second-largest other than Windsor Castle.
It was once illegal to be out past 8pm.
In 1068, King William 1st introduced the curfew law, which stated that all citizens must go to bed at 8pm. When the curfew bell rang, everyone had to extinguish their fires and go to bed.
The law was intended to stop his conquered subjects from holding secret meetings at night to plot against him. It was highly effective because, in those days, there wasn’t much to do without a fire to provide light or heat.
Don’t worry, if you visit the UK now, you’re free to go to bed whenever you wish!
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Discovering More Interesting And Fun Facts About The UK
These are just some of the. many interesting facts about the UK. Next time you visit the UK, you’ll be armed with plenty of British fun facts to impress the locals with. However, there’s so much more to learn about this exciting country and a visit to the UK is the best way to explore it for yourself.