Having spearheaded the Industrial Revolution, colonized two-fifths of the globe, and won every foreign war in its history but two, Britain seems intent on making the world forget its tiny size. But this small island nation is just that: Small. The rolling farms of the south and the rugged cliffs of the north are only a day’s train ride apart, and people as diverse as London clubbers, Cornish miners, Welsh students, and Gaelic monks all occupy a land area half the size of Spain. Beyond the stereotypical snapshots of Merry Olde England gabled cottages with flowery borders, tweed-clad farmers shepherding their flocks Britain today is a cosmopolitan destination driven by international energy. Though the sun may have set on the British Empire, its legacy survives in multicultural urban centers and a dynamic arts and theater scene. Brits eat kebab as often as they do scones, and five-story dance clubs in post-industrial settings draw as much attention as fairy-tale country homes with picturesque views.
Travelers should be aware that names hold political force. Great Britain refers to England, Scotland, and Wales; the political term United Kingdom refers to these nations as well as Northern Ireland. Let’s Go uses the term Britain to refer to England, Scotland, and Wales because of legal and monetary distinctions.
LIFE AND TIMES HISTORY
EARLY INVADERS. Once connected to the European continent by a land bridge, Britain has been inhabited for nearly half a million years. Little is known about the island’s prehistoric residents, besides the utterly mysterious stone circles they left behind at Stonehenge (198) and Avebury (198). By the end of the first century, the Romans held all of Britannia (England and Wales); you can still see the remnants of their rule at Hadrian’s Wall, a coast-to-coast fortification