A guide to Britain’s extremities
For box-tickers, trivia hounds and pub-quizzers, here’s a run-through of Britain’s tallest, smallest, shortest and longest.
By the compass
Isle of Scilly
The Shetland Isles’ rocky outcrop Out Stack is the UK’s most northerly tip, a jagged pile often referred to as the full stop at the end of Britain. Head south and the country goes no further than the Isles of Scilly’s Western Rocks, a nature reserve predominantly for seals and seabirds.
On the westerly extreme some 270 miles from Ireland, lies Rockall. Not much more than a boulder, its ownership is still disputed among the Scottish, Irish and British. Across the way on Britain’s eastern edge is a place best not to visit: Suffolk’s Ness Point; the website describes it disappointingly as a “simple piece of concreted land."
As for the central point of Old Blighty, the traditionalists name the west Coventry village Meriden while others claim it’s Warwickshire’s Midland Oak tree. Some have used the centroid method to assert that Britain’s naval is in fact the Whitendale Hanging Stones, a small rock cluster in the Forest of Bowland, Lancashire. And in terms of distance from the sea the central spot is Church Flatts Farm near Coton, Derbyshire.
Highs and lows
As for the highest point in the UK, Ben Nevis is the country’s foremost peak, standing 1,344m (4,409 ft) high in Scotland. On the opposite end of the scale is Holme Fen in Cambridgeshire, the lowest point in the UK. This peaty bog dips down to 2.75m (9 ft) below sea level.
Further down still is the country’s deepest cave: Wales’ Ogof Ffynnon Ddu. Known also as The Cave of the Black Spring, the hollow is a claustrophobia-inducing 308m (1,010 ft) deep, with numerous river passages and 50 miles of navigable passageways for adventurous cavers to explore.
By surface area Northern Ireland’s Lough Neagh is Britain’s biggest lake but by volume Loch Ness wins the category. There is a similar contest for Britain’s longest river. Officially the 220-mile long River Severn wins, with the Thames a close second at 215 miles. However, many suggest that Seven Springs is actually the source of the latter, lending it and extra 14 miles to pip the post.
As for waterfalls, Eas a' Chual Aluinn offers the longest single-drop. When in full flow its 200m (658 ft) plunge is thrice that of the Niagara Falls but found in far northwest Scotland. It can be reached via the road south of Kylesku and a boggy six-mile hike, or can be viewed comfortably from one of the popular boat trips.
In the constructed category London takes the title of Britain’s biggest city in terms of size (607 square miles) and population (8.6 million). Conversely, Britain’s smallest town, Fordwich in eastern Kent is a riverside community with a town council holding the smallest UK population at just 381 people.
Back in London, the Shard currently stands as our tallest building, at a nosebleed-inducing 310m (1,020 ft). London is also the starting point for the UK’s longest road: the A1, which spans 410 miles from St Paul’s Cathedral to Edinburgh before finally running out of tarmac.