Ari Shapiro

In Scotland, some long-time whisky makers are switching over to gin. In Germany, people who distill traditional brandies are doing the same. The world is in the middle of a gin distillery boom, and it is coming to America.

One place to find the roots of this boom is London, where 250 distilleries once existed in the city limits alone.

For Charles Maxwell, this story is personal. "My great-great-grandfather was apprenticed in the city of London in the 1680s to learn how to make gin," Maxwell says. "And from that day to this, we've distilled gin in London."

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In the EU people can settle anywhere without a work visa or other special permission. That has become a source of tension between the EU and the United Kingdom. Prime Minister Cameron wants to limit immigration in Europe. NPR's Ari Shapiro reports from London.

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Forget Nessie: there's another insidious creature living in the waters of Scotland.

The story starts in the streams and lakes of the northwestern United States, where North American signal crayfish are a familiar sight. Turn over a rock and you may well encounter one.

But in Scottish streams and lochs, these creatures are intruders.

In the United States, we often hear about invasive Asian carp, zebra mussels or snakehead fish from China that take over American waterways. It's a two-way street: American species are causing chaos in other parts of the world, too.

Last month on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., trucks pulled up bearing thousands of tons of dark topsoil and sand. Volunteers arrived with shovels and rakes. Following an artist's instructions and guided by satellite coordinates, they laid out a design across 6 acres to create a work commissioned by the National Portrait Gallery.

For more than a century, the Royal Shakespeare Company in England has hired composers to write original music for its productions. That sheet music has sat in a vault for decades — until now.

The company has started releasing albums that combine music from its contemporary productions with much older works.

Bruce O'Neill, head of music for the Royal Shakespeare Company, describes the archive as "a bit like a bank vault."

In Washington Thursday, a group of experts from across the government will hold its first meeting to address the practice known as female genital mutilation. This is one issue where the U.K. is far ahead of the United States.

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It's lunchtime at Drummond Community High School in Edinburgh. The kids are all wearing the uniform of a smart black blazer, white shirt and blue tie. Some 16- and 17-year-olds are here with their cheese sandwiches and their baked potatoes.

They get to cast ballots Thursday in what looks to be a close vote on whether Scotland will become independent or remain part of the United Kingdom.

Here's what some of them are saying:

"Scotland will be a richer country if there's a 'yes' vote" for independence, says Calum Preston. "It's just a fact."

It's pouring in Edinburgh, and the fog is so thick you can barely see to the end of the block.

People walking through the city center duck out of the rain into a little stone alcove to talk about the subject on everyone's mind — Thursday's big vote on whether Scotland will become an independent country.

The latest polls show the race is extremely tight.

In the Edinburgh rain, a striking number of voters have recently changed their minds. Michael Constantine says he and his parents all switched sides.

Editor's Note: The Glenturret distillery announced Wednesday that Peat the kitten was killed. It was found on the side of the road near the distillery and was presumably hit by a car. The accident took place on Monday, the day before this story aired and was published online, but the distillery did not make the announcement until Wednesday.

As the great poet T.S. Eliot once said:

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For a visitor to Scotland, it can be difficult to understand the local passion for a neon orange soda that locals call "the brew." The drink is Irn Bru (pronounced "iron brew").

You can find it from McDonald's to corner stores and pubs across Scotland. It is such a powerful force that it may even outsell Coca-Cola here — making it one of the few places on the globe where Coke isn't the leading brand.

"This stuff runs in my blood," says Chris Young, as he walks through downtown Glasgow carrying a bottle.

An investigation out on Tuesday documents the abuse of more than 1,400 children in Rotherham, England, and says local authorities were aware of the problem for years and did not respond.

Alexis Jay, who authored the report, used to be chief inspector of social work in Scotland.

After 300 years in the United Kingdom, Scotland votes next month on whether to break the union, which raises many questions. One is particularly meaningful in the town of Helensburgh, in Western Scotland: What will happen to the U.K.'s nuclear weapons?

The Trident submarine program is based in Scotland, at Faslane naval base.

British authorities are trying to identify the masked man who executed American photojournalist James Foley in a video that has caused massive global reaction.

The man — who appears wearing all black, holding a knife, and wearing a gun holster — speaks in an accent that linguists say sounds like someone from East or South London. The video yields other clues to the man's identity, such as his height and the fact that he's left-handed.

How do you memorialize an event that happened 100 years ago? Almost nobody is alive who witnessed the start of World War I. In England, at the Tower of London, an unusual artistic commemoration is blooming. Its name comes from a poem, written by an anonymous soldier in World War I: "The Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red."

At 6:30 in the morning, not many people have dancing on their mind. Freshly brewed coffee, perhaps, or the papers. Maybe some public radio. But not a party.

On a street in East London, however, the sun is rising over the rooftops, and a line of people are waiting to get into a warehouse. Most were fast asleep an hour ago, but by now they're wearing fluorescent neon tights, brightly colored headbands and leggings. Some have decorated themselves with face paint.

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It's Friday afternoon. The first day of August. Let's take a little island vacation.

(MUSIC PLAYING)

It's a Wednesday afternoon in London and a bunch of kids are standing outside a West End theater, giddily unaware that their parents have just shelled out a lot of money for the experience they're about to have. A giant sign over their heads shows a silhouette of a girl standing on a swing, her hair flying behind her in the wind — it's a matinee performance of Matilda.

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The deadly war in the Gaza Strip and Israel is being fought with rockets and guns. It's also being fought with tweets and viral videos.

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This is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Robert Siegel.

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