The British Isles include two separate nations: the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, more commonly referred to as “the UK”, and the Republic of Ireland. England, Scotland, and Wales are the three countries that make up Great Britain. In addition, there are numerous small islands off the coastline of the British Isles.
The British Isles have a long and complex history of conquest and kingdoms: home to legendary peoples such as the Celts and the Saxons, the islands were colonized by the Romans, invaded by the Vikings, and eventually conquered by the Normans in 1066. From there, an historic litany of kings and queens has ruled these isles; the houses of these nobles and royals include York, Tudor, Saxe-Coburg Gotha and today’s royal family, the Windsors.
The natural heritage of the British Isles
Beyond the incredible history and impact that the British Isles has had on world history, from scientific innovations to literature to world politics and trade, the British Isles have also made an impact through their very existence. The natural beauty and landscapes of the British Isles attract many thousands of visitors every year, with many of the landmarks and natural wonders designated as World Heritage Sites. Miles of rugged coastline surround the British Isles; the Jurassic Coast, which includes coastline belonging to two English counties, Dorset and Devon, was the first “natural” World Heritage Site.
The white cliffs of the southern coast of England are one of the most iconic images of the British Isles. The cliffs of Dover have been glorified in song, while one of the most spectacular sections of the cliffs, known as the Seven Sisters, lies along the Sussex coast.
One of the most impressive natural wonders in the British Isles is located on the coast of Northern Ireland. Made of black basalt columns, tightly packed and polygonal in shape, the Giant’s Causeway rises up from the sea near Antrim. Regular in shape, legend attributes the building of the causeway to Irish giant Finn McCool.
Unmissable sites in the British Isles
Some of the most iconic man-made sites in the British Isles include Stonehenge, a World Heritage Site believed to be a calendar for the ancient Celts and Druids; the best-preserved Roman baths north of the Alps, located in the eponymous city of Bath; the many ruined forts along the cross-country Hadrian’s Wall, built to keep the Celts and Picts away from the “civilized” Roman colonies in the south and the complex and extensive Avebury Stone Circle, which measures a quarter-mile across, in the Wiltshire countryside.
The heritage of the British Isles is not only to be found outdoors. Numerous castles and stately homes are preserved throughout the Isles, many open to the public as museums, allowing visitors to view relics from a variety of periods throughout the nation’s history. British innovation and industry made a significant mark on the world and many museums and factories remain, offering glimpses into the industrial revolution within this nation. The Dartington Crystal factory, the last remaining crystal factory in the UK, is well worth a visit.
The British Isles are brimming with history of every sort from natural history to industrial history and cultural history, so why not join the thousands of people who discover the wonders of this place every year and take a trip to be amazed?