Britain and Ireland
The British and Irish Isles refer to the islands of Great Britain, Ireland and nearby islands. They are located in Europe.
The Channel Islands are sometimes included in the term "British Isles" because they are a British crown dependency. However, they are located off the coast of Normandy, France, and are not geographically part of the British or Irish Isles.
Until 1922, Ireland was in fact part of United Kingdom. There are several distinct cultures in this island group, however there remain certain cultrual similarities between them, for example the English language is universally understood.
Many of the geographic names have different meanings depending on the context. For example Ireland in legal terms relates to the country Ireland, and not the geographical concept of the Island of Ireland. Similarly, Great Britain sometimes is understood to mean the largest island in the British and Irish Islands, but sometimes is understood to include certain other Islands, which are part of England, Scotland or Wales such as Lundy, Harris or Anglesey.
For further details it is probably best to look at the sections of the individual entities.
English is spoken to native standard by all but a tiny small minority of inhabitants of the British and Irish Isles. English is also the first language of the majority of inhabitants of the archipelago. However several million people speak languages other than English as their first language. Indeed it may surprise some visitors, (from within as well as outside of the islands) that in some small pockets, English is the first language of only a minority of speakers.
Considering the relatively small area compared with other English speaking areas, there are considerable variations in accent and dialect in spoken English throughout these Islands, although by and large this should provide no major obstactle to visitors with reasonable fluency in English. There are however dialects of English in certain parts of the Island group which can be said to form distinct languages such as "Scots" and "Ulster Scots".
The indigenous languages of the islands are of Celtic Origin. Welsh is the most widely spoken of these, and in some Western parts of Wales it remains the majority language. Irish, Manx and Scottish Gaelic are also spoken, and while closely related and sharing much of the same base vocabulary, these Gaelic languages are under normal circumstances not mutually intelligible. There are attempts to revive the Cornish language.
Most official signage is mono-lingual in English. However in Wales and Ireland signage is almost always billingual. Billingual sinage is not unknown in Scotland or the Isle of Man.
In recent decades immigration from farther afield has seen a number of other linguistic communities establish themselves throughout the islands, mainly, but not exclusively in urban England.
Immigration and visa requirements
A number of separate jurisdictions with their own immigration rules make up this region. So a traveller may wish to check the requirments for the territories in which they wish to travel, on the appropriate pages. However there is considerable co-operation and co-ordination between the authorities of the countries in this region meaning that the British and Irish Isles comprise a Common Travel Area, which helps the vast majority of travelers enjoy hassle free travel when crossing borders within the British and Irish Isles.
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 within the British and Irish Isles is very simple compared with most other international borders.
The arrangment's origins lie in the fact that whole of the Island of Ireland was once part of the United Kingdom and so there was never a need for immigration control for what was at that time domestic travel. Whilst Ireland and the United Kingdom have been separate countries for many decades, for the most part both have found it more beneficial to maintain relatively open borders. However because of the way it has developed over the years, the CTA 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. There are therefore some limited exceptions to the principle of complete freedom of travel.
Throughout this region, 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 Kilmometers per hour.