Can You Pass This Basic British Geography Quiz?



By: Zoe Samuel

6 Min Quiz

Image: Flavio Vallenari / E+ / Getty Images

About This Quiz

Britain may not be as large as Russia or Brazil, but it is vast, with all manner of caves, mountains, swamps and plains. Underappreciated by many native Britons, the nations of England, Scotland and Wales posses tremendous beauty and a landscape with a history that is fascinating for both scientific as well as historical reasons. Separated from mainland Europe at the end of the last Ice Age, Britain has its share of fossilized remains of ancient animals, flora, and ancient humans. Over the millennia, the people who lived on these isles have called them by different names, and divided them into numerous named kingdoms and nations, some lasting only a few decades.

Most British people haven't been to more than about a dozen other towns or cities. Most of what one learns in school as a child is lost by the time one reaches adulthood. Given that the odds are good that you haven't personally visited the bulk of Great Britain, your knowledge of British geography will be limited to what you learnt in secondary school or studied for recreational purposes, or your job. Do you know Britain as well as you should? Can you pass even this basic British geography test?

Where is the lowest point in mainland Britain?

Holme, Cambridgeshire, sits a full 9 feet below sea level, making it the lowest point in mainland Britain. A swampland, Holme has two posts, shown here, marking the lowest point in Britain, one erected nearly a century after the other.


Lough Neagh is the UK's largest lake, but it is located in Northern Ireland. What is Britain's largest lake?

Standing astride the Highland Boundary Fault, Loch Lomand is the largest lake in mainland Britain, and the third-largest lake in the UK, at least in terms of total surface area. It is not, however, the deepest lake.


What is the area of the UK?

Including the areas of England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, the full area of the UK is, in fact, all of the above answers, as they are the same area expressed in kilometers, miles and acres. Of course, this number has changed over the centuries, due to erosion.


History is a major part of British geography. What Roman structure separates England from Scotland?

Built between 122 AD and 128 AD, Hadrian's Wall was constructed on the otherwise unmarked barrier between Roman Britain and Scotland. Some historians say it was built to deter Scottish "barbarians" from invading England. Still, some posit that it was equally important to keep the Romans from mixing with the Scots, ensuring a "pure" Roman British culture.


What body of water lies to the west of Wales?

The Irish Sea separates Ireland from Wales, England and Scotland. The Isle of Man sits at the centre of the Irish Sea, and it is possible to see Scotland, Ireland, England and Wales from the Isle of Man's high points.


What is the name of the man-made structures that give Edinburgh its unusual subterranean geography?

Edinburgh's Old Town is marked by its unusual, hilly geography. When flattened streets were built connecting it to New Town, they required bridges between Old Town's hilltops. This created vaults, some of which cross streets and are accessible, while others are between buildings, inaccessible to most.


Which of the following countries has the second shortest coastline?

With roughly 9,010 miles of coastline, China has the most coastline in this group. Greece comes in second at 8,498 miles of coastline, the United Kingdom third at 7,723 miles of coastline, and Mexico rounds out the group with, surprisingly, only 5,797 miles of coastline. The seaside town of Whitby, Yorkshire, is shown here.


Canals were once an important part of the British economy. For what city is the canal that was the world's largest when opened in 1894, named?

The Manchester Ship Canal transformed the economy of Manchester. Opened in 1894, the Manchester Ship Canal took eight years to build. Stretching from Liverpool to Manchester, the 36 miles long canal made it possible for larger shipping to reach Manchester, shortening the travel time of goods to and from the city.


Which of the following is the most northerly point in mainland Scotland?

Located at 58° 40′ 21″ N, 3° 22′ 31″ W, Dunnet Head is the most northerly point in Scotland. A peninsula, it consists of high palisades to the northwest of John o' Groats, a nearby town. Stroma is an island, and thus not part of mainland Britain or Scotland.


Which area under British control is the largest?

While the UK (England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland) is 95,959 square miles, the British Antarctic Territory is an absolutely massive 667,018 square miles. Of course, the British Antarctic Territory has far fewer pubs. Shown here is the Halley VI Research Station operated by the British Antarctic Survey.


What is England's smallest historic county, when the tide is out?

At a tiny 147 square miles, Rutland is the smallest historic county in England. Landlocked, Rutland isn't the smallest county, as several cities that have their own county status are smaller by area, but it does hold the distinction of not having a single McDonald's, at least for now.


Where is the southernmost point in mainland England?

Lizard Point, named for the Cornish word meaning "high court," is the most southerly point in mainland England. Stretching out into the Atlantic Ocean, Lizard Point was the first place from which the Spanish Armada was spotted, and, with its rocky coastline, Lizard Point sits at the centre of a graveyard for sunken ships.


What is the name of the easternmost point in mainland Britain?

Lowestoft Ness is the easternmost point in England and in mainland Britain. Located in Suffolk, the town features a Euroscope marker marking it as the most easterly point and describing its distance to places in Europe.


What was the Roman capital of Roman Britain?

Colchester is the location of the Romans' first fortress in Britain, built after their conquest of Britain in 43 AD, and served as their capital. Londinium, while an important economic centre, was not the Roman capital.


The Marble Arch in London marks the location of what former landmark of note?

The Tyburn Triple Tree, so named for the Tyburn, a stream that still flows under the streets of London, was a massive gallows built on what was the edge of the urban sprawl of London. Capable of hanging 15 people at once, it was replaced with the Marble Arch that now gives the neighborhood its name.


What is the furthest distance between anyone living in Britain and the sea?

Given the dimensions of the UK, it is difficult to be very far from the sea at any given time. Assuming one is as centrally located in Britain as possible (furthest from the sea), one can only be 75 miles from the sea before coming closer to the sea on the other side of the island.


The Severn is the UK's longest river. How long is it?

Descending to the ocean from an elevation of over 2,000 feet, the River Severn flows for a total of 220 miles. Flowing into the Severn Estuary, the river transports approximately 3,800 cubic feet of water per second! It is seen here from Shrewsbury Castle looking downstream.


Where was the capital of England for most of its history?

For much of the existence of England qua England, Winchester was the capital, but that began to change when King Cnut and later, Norman kings, decided to favour London as the capital city. The truth, however, is that London was not officially the capital until the 1700s, as until then, the capital was just wherever the monarch happened to be.


The most populous city in Alabama has the same name as a city in England. What city is that?

Birmingham, England, shares its name with Birmingham, Alabama. While Birmingham, England, is the UK's second city and would serve as the capital should anything happen to London, Birmingham, Alabama, was founded during the "Reconstruction" period after the American Civil War. Birmingham is not the capital of Alabama. Birmingham City Council headquarters are at the Council House in Victoria Square, shown here.


What is the name of the creek that runs under Knightsbridge?

The Westbourne is the creek that flows under Knightbridge, coming south from Kilburn and Bayswater. The Tyburn runs to the Westbourne's east, flowing through Westminster. The Fleet flows to the east of the Tyburn, and Counter's Creek flows to the west of the Westbourne. The Westbourne is one of London's "lost river" underground waterways. The creek is inside the green conduit, shown here, above the train platform of Sloane Square tube station.


The Cinque Ports are so named because of being five ports important to trade and defence. How many Cinque Ports have there been?

While the original five Cinque Ports were Hastings, shown here, New Romney, Hythe, Dover, and Sandwich, when New Romney ceased to be a viable port, it was replaced with Rye, bringing the total to six. In addition to these, the Cinque Ports have seven towns referred to as "limbs," which bring the total number of associated towns to 13.


What is England's largest historic county?

Of England's historic counties, Yorkshire is the largest, at 4595.8 square miles today. This number has changed, though, revised down since 1831, when it was an even more massive 5733.6 square miles. Yorkshire derives its name from Jórvík, the Danish name for the city of York.


What body of water lies to the south of the Irish Sea?

The Celtic Sea is the body that lies to the south of the Irish Sea, due west southwest from England and Wales. Bounded to the north and east by various small bodies named for the dry land near to them, and the south and west by the continental shelf, the Celtic Sea is technically considered a part of the Atlantic Ocean.


What river basin region lies to the south of the Tay river basin region?

The Forth River basin region lies to the south of the Tay River basin region. The Forth River is, of course, famous for being the home of the Forth Bridge, shown here, which is a metaphor for work that never stops, as painting the Forth Bridge is (erroneously) believed to be an act that must begin again as soon as a crew finishes it.


The north of England is beautiful and has some historic cities. Which of the following northern cities is the most northern?

York is the most northerly of these cities, but only just. The north of England was once colonised by the Danes, with much of it incorporated into an area once called The Danelaw. One inheritance of this is towns with names that come from Old Norse names given to them by the Danes.


Which of the following cities is the furthest to the east?

Norwich is the easternmost of these cities. Norwich is a city indicative of the changes that affected Britain over the centuries. Founded in the 11th century, this pastoral city was the second most populous in England until the industrial revolution, when populations moved to other industrial cities.


What is the largest inhabited castle in Britain?

At 484,000 square feet, Windsor Castle is the largest inhabited castle in Britain. While other castles are technically considered the property of the Monarch, they aren't necessarily inhabited. Dover Castle, for example, is not set up as a residence at the moment, though the Queen could decide to live there if she so chose.


The UK has plenty of high mountains. What is the highest peak in Britain?

At a towering height of 1,345 metres, Ben Nevis is the highest peak in Scotland, and Britain. In fact, Scotland lays claim to the 10 highest mountains in all of Britain, making the Welsh peak of Snowdon and other British mountains outside of Scotland no more than also-rans.


How many usable miles of canals are there in the UK?

The vast canal network was once crucial to trade and manufacturing, allowing the transportation of goods from remote parts of Britain. While this transportation network was replaced with lorries, rail and air shipping, there remain 2,200 miles of navigable canals in the UK, used mostly for recreation.


Where is the Uffington White Horse located?

While a navigation app will point you to Uffington, Oxfordshire, should you want to visit the Uffington White Horse, Uffington was once a part of the historic county of Berkshire, the borders of which have moved. The ancient chalk drawing of a horse is best appreciated from the air.


Where is the home of the Marquis of Bath?

The residence of the Marquis of Bath is Longleat House, which is considered to be in the municipality of Warminster. This English stately home is one of the best examples of Elizabethan architecture in the country.


Britain has some towns and villages with amusing names. Which of the following isn't a real British town name?

Blubberhouses is a real town in North Yorkshire, but Blubberhouse is not a real place. Upton Snodsbury is near Birmingham, Lickfold is north of Chichester, and Matching Tye is west of Chelmsford.


Wales has some truly amazing natural beauty. What is the longest river in Wales?

At 75 miles, River Tywi is the longest river in Wales. Flowing south, it practically bisects Wales and is noted for being an excellent place for fishing. The River Usk, while less illustrious in dimensions, passes by the old Roman settlement of Caerleon, which is believed to be one of the inspirations for the city of Camelot of Arthurian legend.


What is the name of the cave system near Harrogate?

With a constant temperature of 7 degrees Celsius, Stump Cross Caverns is a chilly geological formation discovered only recently — 1860, to be precise. The caves, which have produced many fossils over the years, were discovered by lead miners. Lead mining is an industry with roots in the area going back to the time of Ancient Rome.


How can one tell the native bluebells from the invasive species?

Spanish bluebells have had a foothold in Britain for a long time, but there are still plenty of native English bluebells out there. Spanish bluebells look more or less the same as the English ones, save one detail: Spanish bluebells sprout flowers on both sides of the stem, unlike English bluebells, which only sprout flowers on one side of the stem.


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