Europe has been traditionally divided into regions based on location according to the four points of the compass: Eastern Europe, southern Europe, Western Europe, and northern Europe. The British Isles are often considered a separate region but can be included as a part of Western Europe.
The British Isles are an archipelago (group of islands) separated from the European mainland by the English Channel.
There are about 136 permanently inhabited islands in the group, the largest two being Great Britain and Ireland. Great Britain is to the east. Ireland is to the west. The largest of the other islands are to be found in the Hebrides, Orkney and Shetland to the north, Anglesey and the Isle of Man between Great Britain and Ireland, and the Channel Islands near the coast of France.
The British Isles are often included in the region of Western Europe when discussing political geography; however, the fact that they are separated from the mainland of Europe by water provides them with a separate identity.
The British Isles consists of two separate, independent countries: the Republic of Ireland and Great Britain.
The United Kingdom (UK) of Great Britain consists of the regions of England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland. All four regions are now under the UK government.
The Republic of Ireland is independent of the United Kingdom and does not include Northern Ireland. The UK capital is London, which is a financial center for Europe. The capital city of the Republic of Ireland is Dublin.
Influenced by the Gulf Stream, the climate of the British Isles is moderate, in spite of its northern latitude location. The UK and Ireland are located above the fiftieth degree of latitude, which is farther north than the US-Canadian border. The northern latitude would normally place this region into the type D climates, with harsher winters and more extreme seasonal temperatures. However, the surrounding water moderates temperature, creating the moderate type C climate that covers most of the British Isles. The Gulf Stream pulls warm water from the tropics and circulates it north, off the coast of Europe, to moderate the temperature of Western Europe.
These two quick videos will give you an explanation of British weather:
The Western Highlands and the Northern Lowlands dominate the islands. Scotland, Wales, and parts of England have highland regions with short mountains and rugged terrain. The lowlands of southern England, Ireland, and central Scotland offer agricultural opportunities. The Pennines mountain chain runs through northern England and was the source of the coal, ores, and waterpower that fueled the Industrial Revolution.
To the east of Britain is the North Sea, which provided an abundance of petroleum resources (oil) for energy and wealth.
Historically, indigenous British people were thought to be descended from the various ethnic groups that settled there before the 12th century: the Celts, Romans, Anglo-Saxons, Norse and the Normans. Welsh people could be the oldest ethnic group in the UK.
Evidence of Roman settlement in England can still be seen today!
There are also lots of castles and other structures in the U.K. that illustrate its past.
The British Isles has an amazing history that is fun to study. It’s a story about Celts, Romans, Anglo-Saxons, Vikings, kings, queens, castles, wars, and more. During the time of Queen Victoria (1837-1901) it was said that “The sun never sets on the British Empire.” It’s beyond the scope of this geography course to cover the history of this area, but if you are interested in learning about British history, I recommend this terrific book: DK’s History of Britain and Ireland: The Definitive Visual Guide.
The UK’s official language is English. Three indigenous Celtic languages are spoken in the UK: Welsh, Irish and Scottish Gaelic. Cornish, which became extinct as a first language in the late 18th century, is subject to revival efforts and has a small group of second-language speakers.
The islands enjoy a mild climate and varied soils, giving rise to a diverse pattern of vegetation. Animal and plant life is similar to that of the northwestern European mainland. There are however, fewer numbers of species, with Ireland having even less.
Many larger animals, such as wolf, bear and the European elk are today extinct. However, some species such as red deer are protected. Other small mammals, such as rabbits, foxes, badgers, hares, hedgehogs, and stoats, are very common and the European beaver has been reintroduced in parts of Scotland. Wild boar have also been reintroduced to parts of southern England, following escapes from boar farms and illegal releases. Many rivers contain otters and seals are common on coasts.
Let’s take a look at the individual parts of the British Isles! We’ll head over to England next!
✎ The British Isles consists of two separate, independent countries: the Republic of Ireland and Great Britain. The United Kingdom (UK) of Great Britain consists of the regions of England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland.
✎ The climate of the British Isles is moderate and is influenced by the Gulf Stream.
✎ The Pennines mountain chain runs through northern England.
✎ Historically, indigenous British people were thought to be descended from the various ethnic groups that settled there before the 12th century.
✎ Animal and plant life is similar to that of the northwestern European mainland.
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Image and additional information credits:
British Isles map
By Stefan Ertmann, amendments by Peterfitzgerald – Own work based on the map of UK, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=22744335
Map of the British Isles terminology
By Matt Lewis at English Wikipedia, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=4929963
By Wdcf – Wdcf – Derived from Nuvola icons ( etc.), CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=16954089
Great Britain climate
By Beck, H.E., Zimmermann, N. E., McVicar, T. R., Vergopolan, N., Berg, A., & Wood, E. F. – “Present and future Köppen-Geiger climate classification maps at 1-km resolution”. Nature Scientific Data. DOI:10.1038/sdata.2018.214., CC BY 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=74673618
By Hellerick – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=26693883
Pennines passes map
By Equestenebrarum – http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Topographic_Map_of_the_UK_-_Blank.png, CC BY 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=15090875
Peak District in the Pennines
By Vincent – Self-photographed, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=2248672
By Scotland location map.svg NordNordWestderivative work ויקיג’אנקי – This file was derived from: Scotland location map.svg:, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=46337498
By Contains Ordnance Survey data © Crown copyright and database right, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=17529705
By TUBS – Own workThis W3C-unspecified vector image was created with Adobe Illustrator.This file was uploaded with Commonist.This vector image includes elements that have been taken or adapted from this file: Scotland location map.svg (by NordNordWest)., CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=16386981
Isle of Man
By Isle_of_Man_outline.svg: Αντιγόνη.The original uploader was Αντιγόνη at Greek Wikipedia.derivative work: The New Mikemoral ♪♫ – Isle_of_Man_outline.svg, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=9084092
By mbartelsm – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=86531831
By Steve Cadman – originally posted to Flickr as The Great Bath, CC BY-SA 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=4865727
By Velella – Personal photograph taken by Velella., Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=379364
Hadrian’s Wall information
By BadgerHero – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=7428454
By Gibe, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=29948
By Keven Law from Los Angeles, USA – Hello World…, CC BY-SA 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=5691783
wild European boar
By Valentin Panzirsch – File:Wildschein, Nähe Pulverstampftor.jpg, CC BY-SA 3.0 at, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=46902117
By Peter Facey, CC BY-SA 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=13859234