The United Kingdom is a complex beast. Fully named the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, the UK is a sovereign state comprised of different countries. A country made up of countries? I told you it was complicated.
So what is the United Kingdom exactly? What makes up the United Kingdom and who is in the UK?
The United Kingdom consists of four countries – England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Island. All of these countries have their own parliaments but none have their own passport. They all have a UK passport.
Geographically speaking, the UK covers the entire island of Great Britain, the northeastern part of the island of Ireland, and most of the remaining British Isles.
Quick note: “Ireland” is a geographical term which refers to the entire island or Ireland but people often use it to talk about the Republic of Ireland, which isn’t part of the UK, versus Northern Ireland, which is.
So what is Great Britain? It’s a geographical term, not a political one, and it refers to the largest island of the UK which covers Scotland, Wales, and England but not Northern Ireland. However, oftentimes the term is used to also include the small islands surrounding that area. However, these islands aren’t officially part of Great Britain. They are:
- the Shetland Islands
- the Isle of Wight
- the Orkney Islands
- the Isle of Anglesey
- the Hebrides
- the Islands of the Clyde
Confused? The video below explains it very clearly:
The video also explains that there are also some countries that were once part of the British Empire and have retained ties with the UK after becoming independent. More specifically, they’ve agreed to continue to recognize the British monarch as their head of state in exchange for an autonomous parliament.
These countries are known as The Commonwealth Realm and consist of:
- Papua New Guinea
- New Zealand
- the Solomon Islands
- the Bahamas
- St Lucia
- St Vincent and the Grenadines
- Antigua and Barbuda
- St Kitts and Nevis
And then there are also the Crown Dependencies: the Isle of Man, Jersey, and Guernsey. These are not independent but do receive a large degree of autonomy while still having a British passport.
Lastly, there are the British Overseas Territories of which the disputed Gibraltar and Falkland Islands are probably the best-known. Others are Bermuda, the Cayman Islands, the British Virgin Islands, Turk and Caicos, Akrotiri and Dekhelia, Aguilla, St Helena, Ascension Island, Tristan da Cunha, Montserrat, the British Indian Ocean Territory, the South Georgia and South Sandwich Islands, the British Antarctic Territory, and the Pitcairn Islands.
That takes us a bit too far though, so let’s focus back on what you came here for: travel!
UK countries I’ve visited and written about
Below is a list of the countries in the UK that I have visited myself and have written about or that my dad has written about – as he made some cool trips there. Clicking on the links will take you to detailed travel guides for each of these countries.
- Scotland – guide coming soon!
- Northern Ireland: I’ve only briefly been to Belfast and haven’t written about that but hope to go back soon!