How Many Can You Get Right on This British Geography Quiz?


By: Zoe Samuel

6 Min Quiz

Image: FotografiaBasica/E+/Getty Images

About This Quiz

British geography shouldn't be particularly hard to learn; after all, it is not a very large country, and it has been politically and linguistically stable for at least three hundred years, meaning that names of places are unlikely to have changed. On top of that, the capital city of London is the only genuinely large city in global terms - and there are only two if you count those with over a million residents (Birmingham being the other one). The climate is fairly uniform across the nation, with minor variations from north to south; notably there is a little more rain up north and a smidge more sun down south.

However, many people (including many Brits) not only don't know basic British geography, they also don't even know what counts as British. Technically, Britain refers to the land of the British Isles, which includes Ireland by some estimations and not others, as well as the Isle of Wight, Isle of Man, the Hebrides and others. The United Kingdom is the political entity that includes multiple smaller nations: England, Northern Ireland, Scotland, Wales, and a number of territories and dependencies.

Now that we've covered the basics, let's get to the specifics, and see how good your British geography really is!

What is Big Ben, actually?

Big Ben is not the building, the tower or the clock. It is technically just the great big bell in the tower of the Palace of Westminster. However, people use the name loosely to refer to all.


Which of these towns is NOT north of the Watford Gap?

The Watford Gap in Northamptonshire is a low area between two hills that contains the main north-south roads through that region, and has since Roman times. It is considered to be the boundary beyond which you are finally "up North" - or as they proudly say it there, "oop Narth."


Which of these is not a real place?

There are some really funny place names in the U.K. - many more than are listed here. Some are also extremely rude, and it has become a sign of honor for thieves to steal their road signs. Indeed, the town of Shitterton (it's real, we promise) got so upset with this continuing theft that the whole village chipped in together to pay for a massive many-ton rock with the name carved into it.


What is the highest peak in Wales?

These are all real mountains in Wales. However, Snowdon is the largest, giving its name to Snowdonia, an unbelievably beautiful national park.


What is the longest river in the U.K.?

The Severn is the longest river in the U.K., though not the most famous or widest. It is on the west side of England over near Wales and is very pretty.


Which of these towns is NOT on the Thames River?

Newbury is not on the Thames, which is the main waterway through the Southeast. It goes all the way through London and is the lifeblood of the city.


Where is the biggest cave in the U.K.?

Wales is home to Ogof Ffynnon Ddu, the biggest cave in the U.K. The most famous cave, however, is Wookey Hole, which is sadly empty of Wookiees but otherwise very much worth seeing. The best-smelling cave system in the U.K. is in Cheddar, where the original cheese comes from. This cheddar is vastly superior to the stuff made elsewhere and calling itself cheddar; it is still aged in the caves, which smell terrific.


Which of these British counties has no coastline?

These counties all have no coastline, which is surprising in a country with so much coast compared to the size of it. Counties are often quite small, and thus many fit neatly into the middle.


Which of these is not one of three historic names for a single place?

Jorvik, Eoforwic and Eboracum are all names that the city of York used to have. They are variously Viking, Anglo-Saxon and Roman. Imagine if New York were called New Eoforwic!


What Roman ruin is the source of the name of an area in Newcastle upon Tyne?

Wallsend is where Hadrian's Wall ended. It's in an area of Newcastle, which used to have a reputation for being fairly grim but is in fact a very nice place now, and quite affordable.


What is the highest point in the main pass through the Scottish Highlands?

Drumochter is the high point in the main pass, a little north of Killiecrankie. Snow gates are used to keep drivers with poor judgment from getting stranded during snowstorms.


What do the following have in common: Findhorn, Spey, Trium?

These are all Scottish rivers. They are each a great place to swim and to catch fish, though ideally not at the same time.


Which of these is NOT a real county?

London is technically in the county of Middlesex (mostly) or is treated as its own county. There is no county called Londonshire.


In the last Ice Age, how far south did the glaciers come?

Birmingham is the second biggest city in the U.K. and the only other one with more than a million residents, after London. During the last Ice Age, it was under a glacier!


What North American geographical feature is at the same latitude as the southern tip of the U.K.?

Hudson Bay seems too far north, if you are an American - but it's also the same latitude as the U.K. The whole country lines up neatly with the bay's bottom and top ends. The jet stream in the Atlantic ensures that the U.K. is nowhere near as cold as the north of Canada, though.


By what name is the most northerly settlement on the British mainland known?

This village, population 300, is the most northerly in the U.K. It is very popular to hike from John o'Groats to Land's End, which is its counterpart in the south of England. This journey is 874 miles.


Which of these is NOT one of the Channel Islands?

The Isle of Wight is in the Channel but not one of the Channel Islands, which are a specific group. They were named by the Royal Navy in the 1830s.


What is the average high in London at the peak of summer?

We're not kidding, this is really what they call summer in the U.K. - and it's not even the same as the U.S. because of the latitude. This means the days are very, very long in summer and the high only lasts for about four hours. Thus, even during a "heat wave" (anything over 80F), you will need a jacket in the evenings.


What is the hottest month in the British Isles?

August is hotter than July in the U.K., even though the days are a smidge shorter. This is unlike most of the U.S. It is usually extremely pleasant in August in the U.K., and a great time to visit.


What is the rainiest month?

October is the wettest, and October to January is the wettest season. It doesn't rain every day, though!


What is the technical definition of an official "White Christmas" in the U.K.?

Technically it is a White Christmas if any flakes fall on Christmas Day, but not if it snowed a few days earlier and hasn't melted yet. Snow in the U.K. is rarer than tourists realize and is thus still cause for great excitement, as well as the total paralysis of the transport system - even snow in tiny amounts.


What island in the Irish Sea has 80,000 residents?

The Isle of Man is a semi-autonomous Crown Dependency. It is a beautiful place with 80,000 residents and a surprisingly mild climate, considering how far north it is, thanks to warmer wind funneled up the Irish sea. It's very, very windy there!


How do you pronounce the name of the village of "Eyam" in Derbyshire, home of the famous plague cottages?

The U.K. likes to pronounce things they way they were said 1,000 years ago, even if the spelling changed a lot since then. Eyam is thus pronounced to rhyme with "seam."


What name is typically given to a big fancy home, often owned by a titled family (or these days, converted into a hotel), that is not fortified?

The stately homes of England are one of its greatest tourist draws and well worth visiting. Most are now open to the public. For a few pounds, you can have a lovely day out and see some great art. Indeed, some of them also have safari parks.


Which of these is part of the U.K. but not Great Britain?

Northern Ireland is part of the U.K., but not part of the geographical feature known as Great Britain. Therefore, Belfast, Northern Ireland, is not in Great Britain.


What town in Scotland, just over the border from England, is noted for being a place for English couples to elope, Las Vegas-style?

Gretna Green was a popular place to get married because you did not need paperwork proving you had the permission of the bride's family if she was less than 21. Couples would sneak off to marry there, then return home once it was all done, and there was nothing the families could do.


The county of Yorkshire is divided into three "ridings." Which is not one of them?

A riding is a subdivision of a county. Yorkshire has three. The city of York is the fourth, which is why there is no south riding.


What is the official designation of the British climate?

It's not especially hot or cold in the U.K., and it's not sticky either. The climate is just a mild and temperate one. It's potentially rainy all year, but you won't get a sunburn or freeze to death.


When on Great Britain - the main island - what is the furthest you can get inland from the sea?

You cannot get more than about 75 miles from the sea in the U.K. This is why the country was invaded so much in the past, and also had such a good navy.


In Inner London, how high can you get above sea level?

Hampstead Heath is the highest point in London itself, with a hill about 449 feet above sea level. London is on a tidal river, the Thames, so it is vulnerable to changes in sea level, but most of the city is quite high up compared to many capitals.


About what percentage of the U.K.'s land is farmland?

The U.K. is not as built up as it might seem with its high population, as there have been good planning laws in place for a long time that prevent suburban sprawl. Thus, the nation is still mostly farmland, with additional forest, moors and heath.


What famous monastery is visible on an island off the coast as you cross from England to Scotland?

Lindesfarne is visible from the train as you head north on the east coast railway. It is home to a very beautiful set of Gospels, made by the monks that once lived there. It was raided a lot by Vikings because it is sometimes the first thing you see when you across the North Sea from Norway.


Where is the oldest settlement in the U.K.?

The area around Stonehenge has been inhabited for at least 5,000 years. The residents were called the Beaker people, due to cups they left in their graves. The whole region is rich with archaeological finds.


Which is the flattest county in the U.K.?

Norfolk in East Anglia is very flat. Indeed, rising sea levels due to the changing climate have increased the frequency of floods. They plan to raise streets, build flood walls, install pumps and rezone.


What is the longitude of Central London?

Greenwich Mean Time is set according to the Greenwich Observatory, which is in London. The longitude system is literally based around London, which is thus at zero degrees, or the Prime Meridian.


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