What And Where Are The British Isles?

A map showing the British Isles.
A map showing the British Isles.

The British Isles is a concentration of islands in the North Atlantic. The islands include Great Britain, Ireland, the Isle of Man, the Channel Islands, and about six thousand smaller isles close to the region. The isles cover an estimated area of 121,684 square miles and have a population of about 70 million people. Two sovereign states are part of the isles, the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, and the Republic of Ireland. The rest of the islands are either claimed or disputed.

The islands of Sark, Guernsey, Jersey, and Alderney are sometimes regarded as part of the British Isles, but they are geographically closer to France and are not part of the archipelago. Ireland objects to the use of the term British Isles because the term forces an association with the word British with Ireland. In fact, Ireland discourages the use of the term “British” in its embassy in London and instead refers to the island as Atlantic Archipelago, Britain and Ireland, or simply these islands.

Geography Of The British Isles

The British Isles are located in a region where tectonic movements resulted in several mountains. During the Ordovician Period and the Silurian period, several tectonic plates collided to form mountains in Ireland and northern Britain. During these collisions, several islands were formed. Exposure to glaciations over millions of years has shaped the islands into what they are today. Ireland and Great Britain are the two largest and most populated islands, but 134 more islands are permanently inhabited.

The islands have a low altitude. North Slob in Ireland is the lowest point with an altitude of −9.8 ft while the highest part of the isles is the Ben Nevis in Scottish Highlands at 4,413 ft. The lakes in the British Isles are not large - Lough Neagh in Northern Ireland is the largest with an area of 150 square miles while the largest freshwater is Loch Lomond with an area of 27.5 square miles.

Demographics Of The British Isles

England accounts for 80% of the approximately 70 million people in the isles, and as a result, it is densely populated. The rest of Great Britain and Ireland experience high population density in cities and towns. Greater London is the most populated metropolitan with 9 million, followed by the Greater Manchester and West Midlands conurbation with 2.4 million each. The most populated metropolitans outside England are Greater Glasgow with 1.2 million and the Greater Dublin Area with 1.9 million

Politics In The British Isles

Politically, the United Kingdom governs the entire British Isles except for Ireland, the Isle of Man, and the Channel Islands. Ireland is an independent self-governing country while the Isle of Man and the Channel Islands are Crown dependencies. The British–Irish Council has the role of promoting collaboration within the isles. It was created in the 1999 and consists of members from all territories within the isles. Although the Council has no executive power, it meets biannually to discuss matters of mutual importance to the region.


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