Britain and Ireland
Britain and Ireland, are the two main islands of an archipelago just northwest of the European mainland. The archipelago also includes many smaller islands, one of which is the British Crown dependency of the Isle of Man. The Channel Islands are also Crown dependencies so they are included here even if, geographically, they are not part of the archipelago; they lie just off the French coast.
Britain and Ireland is one of the most visited regions on the planet. It contains some of the world's most recognisable landmarks, historical sites dating back thousands of years, and unique natural environments. World cities, quaint towns, beautiful countryside and remote and isolated areas and islands.
Every part is accessible to the visitor to explore, with trains, ferries, planes and roads connecting the region together. English speaking visitors are guaranteed of being able to communicate everywhere within the region, read all the signs and maps, and get to know the people.
Most people speak English as their first language, however, it may surprise some visitors that in some geographical pockets English is not the first language used for local communication, and the indigenous languages survive. These indigenous languages are generally of Celtic and Germanic origin. Welsh is the most widely spoken of these and in some north-western parts of Wales it remains the majority language. Irish, Manx, and Scottish Gaelic are closely related Gaelic languages sharing much of the same base vocabulary. Across Lowland Scotland and Northern Ireland, Scots and Ulster Scots are spoken, respectively. In the Channel Islands there are small numbers of Norman French speakers. Even in those areas, however, nearly everyone speaks some English and most speak it fluently.
There are considerable variations in accent and dialect, although this should provide no major obstacle to visitors with reasonable fluency in English however, it is incredibly common for an English native to not understand another from a seperate region - for example a Westcountry native in Yorkshire - do not be afraid to ask someone to repeat themselves.
All official signs are in English (except entering from a ferry terminal where French is mandatory on certain signs), and where it is multi-lingual, they will have an additional language as well.
In recent decades, immigration has seen other linguistic communities establish themselves throughout the region, mainly in urban England.
Visitors may find more useful information in the "Get in" sections of the specific part of the region they wish to enter.
Immigration and visa requirements
There are five separate jurisdictions with their own immigration rules in this region. Therefore, travellers may wish to check the requirments for the territories in which they wish to travel on the appropriate pages. The Isle of Man and the Channel Islands have their own immigration rules, which are not exactly the same as the United Kingdom itself. Those concern mainly of long-term residency and are probably not important for the average tourist. Despite there being different rules in the different territories, there is considerable co-operation and co-ordination among the various authorities in this region which means that the British Isles comprise a Common Travel Area, which helps the vast majority of travelers enjoy hassle free travel when crossing borders within the Region.
There are external direct flights to every constituent part of this region except to the Isle of Man.
The largest port of entry to this region is London Heathrow Airport. Situated 15 miles west of Central London, Heathrow offers a large choice of international destinations, with direct flights to most countries in the world. Many onward air connections within the region are possible. Coach connections to other places in mainland Great Britain are generally good. Rail connections from Heathrow to London are good; however, there being no direct services to other parts of Great Britain, a change of train will be necessary in London or possibly at Reading Station, which is served by a regular shuttle coach.
Heathrow's location in the far South East of the region means that many travellers to many other parts of these islands may be better off getting a direct flight to the specific part of the Region in which they are interested. However, from some parts of the world Heathrow, may be the only realistic option, to get into the region, and then further arrangements for onward travel would then be required.
Other airports such as Birmingham, Dublin, Gatwick, Edinburgh, Manchester, Newcastle and Shannon are served by a number of long haul as well as European cities.
There are many other airports where a traveller can enter this region: from some longhaul cities and many European cities; further information is available on the pages about the specific country, or part of the country.
The Common Travel Area
The United Kingdom, Ireland, the Isle of Man, and the Channel Islands maintain a common travel area, somewhat akin to the Schengen Area on continental Europe. Broadly speaking. Crossing the borders is very simple compared with most other international borders.
Ireland and the United Kingdom have been separate countries for many decades. but for the most part both have found it beneficial to maintain relatively open borders. However, because of the way it has developed over the years, the Common Travel Area arrangment is not as formalised as other similar arrangments (such as the Schengen Area), and so the exact rules can be quite complex for some third country nationals.
In general, if you have a passport or EU national identification card, you can avoid any hassles by carrying it, and using it for identification. Also check the identification requirements of any airline or ferry you may be taking.
The Pound Sterling is the currency of the United Kingdom and its Crown Dependencies. The Euro is the currency of the Republic of Ireland. With very limited exceptions, neither currency is accepted outside their territories within this region. Travellers should therefore be aware to have Sterling and or Euro as appropriate to their travel plans.
United Kingdom and Crown Dependencies
Sterling is the local currency. Euro is accepted in certain border areas; for example, near the land border with the Republic of Ireland or in certain businesses near ferry terminals serving Ireland.
In the United Kingdom, the vast majority of banknotes are issued by the Bank of England. Scotland, Northern Ireland and the Crown Dependencies each also have local banknotes. All are in pounds sterling.
Bank of England notes will always be accepted without problems throughout all the areas that use pounds sterling. The minority notes are also generally easy to spend, though may not always be accepted outside their own region. Any bank will exchange minority banknotes for either Bank of England or the local regional notes (e.g. in Scotland, Scottish notes) free of charge.
Minority pounds sterling notes should be changed into Bank of England notes before a traveller leaves the UK or Crown Dependencies as they may be difficult to change in other countries. The obvious exception is that Northern Ireland sterling notes can be easily changed to euro in the republic.
Coins in the United Kingdom follow standard designs, so England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales have no regional variations.
The Crown Dependencies and other Overseas territories (e.g. Falkland Islands and Gibraltar) issue local designs that generally circulate only in their respecitve territory. These coins conform to the same weight, size, thickness and alloy of the mainland UK coins making them in effect just quirky versions of the regular coins. While not strictly legal tender only the most hidebound retailer will refuse them. Banks will exchange them if need be but this is likely unnecessary given their general acceptance, particularly by vending machines!
Republic of Ireland
Only the Euro is legal tender. Sterling may be accepted in certain border locations, for example in ferry ports or near the Northern Ireland land border. Both currencies are usually accepted on board the train (eg in the dining car) throughout its journey between Dublin and Belfast. Euro banknotes have no regional variations. Euro coins' reverse sides (tails) are unvarying by region. Their obverse sides (heads) carry a member state's national symbol. This does not affect their validity throughout the eurozone. Coin spotters may be interested to know that Ireland's relative isolation from the rest of the eurozone makes it likely to have less diversity among its coins' obverse symbols than, for example, Luxembourg.
Although most visitors will probably visit London at some point, it is well worth getting out of the capital to get a real taste of the region and important to not forget the diversity one can find in barely 50 miles.
Whether it's countryside, coastal, historic towns or vibrant cities you are after, there's something for everyone.
The game of golf as we understand it developed here, specifically in Scotland. Despite a strong challenge from Iberia in recent decades, Britain and Ireland remain Europe's most important locations for the sport. Indeed, they can make a strong argument to be the world's main golfing destinations.
Whilst Scotland is considered the home of golf and remains a major worldwide golfing destination in its own right, the Scots' Celtic cousins, in Ireland and more recently Wales, are clearly challenging for pre-eminence as premier golfing destinations, both having well established courses and having invested heavily in new courses too. Indeed, both Ireland and Wales have recently hosted the Ryder Cup. England has the largest number of courses, and so clearly should not be overlooked as a golfing destination either even if its Celtic neighbours hit above their weight.
There are unsurprisingly many top class golf courses in all areas as well as good quality courses to suit more modest pockets.
The "Pub" concept has its origins here. They are premises licenced for the sale of alcoholic drinks for consumption on and off the premises. The pub concept is distinct from the broader concept of a "bar". There are similarities shared by "pubs" throughout Britain and Ireland not shared with other sorts of drinking establishments elsewhere, though the Irish Pub experience can be very distinct from the pub experience of elsewhere in these Islands.
Distilled spirits have been drunk on these islands for millennia. Whisky (or Whiskey in Ireland) is produced predominantly in Ireland and Scotland. There are, however, also Welsh and English Whiskies, too.
In both the UK and Ireland, traffic drives on the left. In the United Kingdom, and its Crown Dependencies, speed limits are expressed in miles per hour. In the Republic of Ireland speed limits are expressed in kilometres per hour.