21 Interesting Facts About the UK That Will Surprise You

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Whether you live in the UK or are wondering about taking your first steps onto these windswept shores, here are some interesting facts about the UK. How many do you already know?

Interesting facts about UK - London Gherkin

Interesting Facts about the UK

Let’s start with the fun facts about the UK and then move on to the more traditional.

Stonehenge is older than the pyramids

Sure, it doesn’t look as pretty but those leaning menhirs on the field near Salisbury date back to 3000 BC, with ceremonial purposes taking place from around 7000 BC. The pyramids in Giza, meanwhile, date back to a measly 2500 BC.

The QUeen doesn’t have a passport

As every British teen recalls, the wording on the passport reads thus: 

“Her Britannic Majesty requests and requires…”

Since Queen Elizabeth is the one in charge of issuing the documents (ultimately) she doesn’t have one herself.

The UK has one of the largest libraries in the world

The British Library holds over 170 million titles, making it one of the largest libraries in the world. It’s also a great place to visit as you can see original texts from the likes of William Shakespeare, Jane Austen, Guy Fawkes and Marie Antoinette. 

Golf was invented in the UK

One of the delights of the 15th century, to certain people, was the invention of the sport of golf at St Andrews in Scotland.

So was the world’s first stamp 

The Penny Black stamp was the world’s first adhesive postage stamp and was issued by the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland (as it then was) on 1st May 1840. The stamp featured a profile image of Queen Victoria, and was designed by P.H. Joubert and engraved by Léon Jacquemart.

Windsor Castle is older than you think

Windsor Castle claims to be the largest and oldest continually inhabited castle in the world. It was originally built by William the Conqueror on a site that had been used for a fortification since at least 886.

As far as royal residences go, Windsor Castles has the following on its roll call: King Edward VII, Queen Victoria, George VI, Queen Elizabeth II, and the Duke of Edinburgh.

Not all royal weddings take place in Windsor, though. Although Harry and Meghan exchanged vows in Windsor Castle, Wills & Kate and Charles and Diana wed at Westminster Abbey.

But The Tower of London has more intrigue…

The Tower of London is over 1000 years old, even as it sits right in the heart of the city of London. Originally built by William the Conqueror, this one plot of land has seen the imprisonment and beheading of some of the most famous people in British history. Today, it houses the Crown Jewels and sends shivers down the necks of small children with its grisly historic tales.

The food in the UK may surprise you

From haggis in Scotland to seaweed strewn laverbread in Wales, you’ll find a range of dishes produced and served across the UK. But the world changes and tastes change with them. Popular surveys recently revealed chicken tikka masala to be among the nation’s favourite dish.

The Queen Wishes People Happy Birthday

According to tradition, if you reach the ripe old age of 100, then you receive a telegram from the Queen. 

The UK drinks 165 Million Cups of tea

The cliché is real. People in the United Kingdom do drink a lot of tea.

It’s what you offer when you meet a new friend, when you go to a funeral, when you get up in the morning, the whole shebang. In fact, the first response after a respectfully short silence after bad news (relationship breakdown, unexpected death, minor social embarrassment) is to offer a cup of tea. 

New mothers receive the offer after childbirth. Doctors make the offer after breaking bad news. Legally mandated gaps in the working day are known as tea breaks.

With this in mind, is anyone surprised that 165 million cups of tea are consumed across the UK each day?

The UK likes inventing things…

Some of the most interesting fun facts about the United Kingdom involve inventions and discoveries. 

Sir Alexander Fleming discovered penicillin and ushered in the age of antibiotics. Watson & Crick uncovered the structure of DNA at the University of Cambridge. 

Alexander Graham Bell invented the telephone in Scotland, a country which also saw the invention of the steam engine, chloroform in childbirth and the concept of. a PIN number. For these reasons alone, I’d highly recommend a trip to Edinburgh to start exploring this cool city with its rugged surroundings.

And, of course, depending on who you believe, the UK also invented the Loch Ness Monster…

On another note, the UK invented the Beatles and you can take a tour of their home ground in Liverpool here.

Abi King at the Real Mary King's Close

Edinburgh buried its 17th Century Past

Quite literally. When you visit Edinburgh, you’ll realise that it’s a steep and challenging city. Up and down, up and down. Well, at some point, builders decided it would be easier to simply fill in the narrow streets with rubble and to continue to build on the top. 

All would have been forgotten, were it not for the Real Mary King’s Close, which has excavated some of these pathways and allows you to travel beneath the city and also back in time. It’s one of the my favourite unusual things to do in Edinburgh.

While Wales built the world’s highest canal

Powered by the industrial revolution, you’ll find engineering feats all across the UK.

But one of the most striking has to be the UNESCO World Heritage Site Pontcysyllte Aqueduct near Llangollen, the highest canal aqueduct in the world.

At a height of 36 metres, it carries water, pedestrians and narrowboats across the River Dee, with a sheer drop and a spectacular view. 

If you fancy exploring it yourself, you can either drive and walk across or book yourself onto a gorgeous narrowboat holiday in the UK.

The Titanic was built in Belfast

The Titanic came to life in the shipyards of Belfast, notching up records left, right and centre in terms of engineering skills and prowess. She was the world’s largest movable man made object, at 269 metres long and 28 metres wide.

And as you’ll often hear said in Belfast, she was fine when she left here…

UK - England - St Paul's and Red Bus

Geography Facts About the UK

Not everyone knows where it is

An existential hazard of living in a place with a patchwork history that spans thousands of years is that much of today’s law and borders have changed, frequently, over time. 

The UK has largely been run by pragmatism rather than religious beliefs and so the end result is, well, not that straightforward. 

I love this video for explaining the difference between Great Britain, the UK, the Crown Dependencies (the situation with the European Union has now changed but it’s still a good starting point!)

But in day to day life, the most important thing to remember is this: the UK is not England. While most people will shrug off a mistake, you will likely alienate people from Wales, Scotland, and Northern Ireland if you refer to it as such and that’s just the start of it…

English is not the only language

Hand in hand with the whole “the UK is not England” thing, you’ll also find other languages within the United Kingdom. 

Still, for now, the official language remains the English language. And in practical, unofficial terms, if you can speak English, you will be understood pretty much anywhere in the UK.

The UK has more than one capital city

Again, it’s not all about England. Northern Ireland has Belfast as its capital city, Wales has Cardiff, Scotland has Edinburgh. Oh, and England has London. But I’m guessing you already knew that one…

Interesting and fun facts about the UK

More on Travel in the UK

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