Possibly the first thing to understand about the British landscape is that there are more than 6,000 islands in the ‘British Isles Group’ (including the independent state of Ireland). Someone took a boat out and counted them. The definitive number depends on whether a rocky outcrop lashed by the Atlantic and populated by a couple of scraggy gulls counts as an island. Of that 6,000, a touch over 130 islands are permanently inhabited by more than 1 person. These include the Shetlands, Orkneys and Western Isles off the coast of Scotland, Anglesey in North Wales, the Isles of Scilly off the coast of Cornwall, Portsea Island in Hampshire and the nearby Isle of Wight – and Canvey Island in Essex (famous for giving birth to Dr Feelgood).
The largest island in the group is the island of Britain itself, which is about 600 miles long and 300 wide at its widest point and contains the nations of England, Wales and Scotland. Here, the British landscape varies from low-lying, flat, almost featureless, countryside through heath, moorland and rolling hills to impressive mountains. And, it varies over relatively short distances. I read a book by an American once (just the once), who wrote something like, “You have to remember that the UK is jolly small by our standards. But there are significant geographical variations over relatively short distances. It is a kind of microcosm.” I like that. All of Britain has been shaped, or impacted upon, by wind, rain, ice, sea – and none of it has been left untouched by man (apart from, possibly, the odd rocky outcrop). The closest Britain gets to wilderness is in the Scottish Highlands – or possibly the Welsh mountains. These parts of Britain, together with the English Lake District, the Pennines and upland moors like Dartmoor, can still be dangerous places – even to experienced, well-equipped, people. Whilst these areas can be harsh and spectacular, others can be soft and almost ridiculously pretty. A patchwork of fields, divided by hedges or, in the north, dry stone walls. Pine forests and natural woodland. The coastline also varies, from mudflats through wide sandy beaches, shingle beaches and cliffs to jagged fjord-like inlets.
So there’s something for everyone…you just need to know where to find it.
The beauty of Britain’s natural landscape can perhaps be best appreciated from its 15 National Parks – though every region has its beauty spots. For an introduction to the different regions and nations of Britain, click or tap here and select one that interests you.
Meanwhile, here’s a few pictures to keep you going. Click or tap an image for more information.