The term island mentality refers to the belief of isolated communities that they are superior to the rest of the world, and is said to be characterised by narrow-mindedness and a suspicion of outsiders.
There’s no disputing that Great Britain is an island, surrounded by bodies of water (English Channel to the south, the North Sea to the east and the Irish Sea and Atlantic Ocean to the west and north) and it’s said that no one in the UK lives more than 120 kilometres from the sea.
But the body of islands off our coastline are preserving and revitalising traditional cultures, crafts, and even languages.
We take a look at some of the UK’s loveliest islands.
The Channel Islands
Although not part of the UK, the UK is responsible for the defence and international relations of this archipelago off the French coast of Normandy. The permanently inhabited islands include Jersey, Guernsey, Alderney, Sark and Herm, although there are also several uninhabited islets that form part of the Bailiwick of Jersey and lie off the coasts of Alderney and Guernsey.
Tourism is the major industry in the smaller islands, with some agriculture, and the independence has strongly influenced its culture. Each island’s traditions are unique to its inhabitants – folk music, songs, dance and traditional costume with a Normandy influence.
The Channel Islands are famous for their dairy products and flowers, with the rural lifestyle reflecting a turn of seasons in the traditional way.
Of all the islands, Sark is the jewel in the crown. Spectacular scenery, bays, coastal paths and cliff top views abound on this car-free island, a perfect holiday experience for anyone who wants to escape the hustle and bustle of modern-day life.
The Isle of Man
Also known as Mann, this self-governing British Crown dependency puts paid to the belief that island mentality is narrow-minded. Its parliament, Tynwald, because the first national legislative body in the world to give women the right to vote in a general election in 1881 (this did not extend to married women) and in 2016, the Isle of Man was the first whole nation to be awarded biosphere reserve status by UNESCO.
The official language of the Isle of Man is English, and the traditional Manx Gaelic, which closely resembles Irish and Scottish languages, heralding its Celtic influences, is now considered an endangered language, following the death of the last remaining native speaker, Ned Maddrell, in 1974.
The national dish of the island is Spuds and Herrin, boiled potatoes and herring, a plain dish that provided sustenance for farmers of the island for centuries. Seafood has long formed a significant proportion of local diet, and Manx kippers (smoked herring), the Queen scallop and Manx cheese are now stocked by many of the UK’s supermarkets.
For beer that conforms to the island’s 1874 purity law, try Okells’ Brewery, Bushy’s Brewery or Hooded Ram Brewing Company.
Isle of Wight
This island lies just off England’s southern coast and can be reached in just 10 minutes via the world’s last remaining Hovercraft from Portsmouth. To promote the island’s identity and culture, High Sheriff Robin Courage founded an Isle of Wight Day, with the inaugural event held on Saturday 24 September 2016.
Karl Marx once called the island “a little paradise” and the island has been a holiday destinations since Victorian times, known for its mild climate, scenery and landscape.
Islanders have a similar accent to that found in Hampshire, but language is interspersed with its own local and regional words: nipper or nips (used to describe a young person), mallishag (caterpillar), and gallybagger (scarecrow).
Sometimes referred to as Ghost Island, the Isle of Wight is supposed to be the most haunted island in the world.
The number of islands, of all sorts and sizes, are truly innumerable, but it is estimated that more than 200 British islands are inhabited. With a total of nearly 4,500 islands off the coast of the British Isles, there are plenty to visit if you fancy a break from the mainland.