Ireland is an island to the north-west of continental Europe. It is the third-largest island in Europe and the twentieth-largest island on Earth.To its east is the island of Great Britain, from which it is separated by the Irish Sea.
Politically, Ireland is divided between the Republic of Ireland, which covers five-sixths of the island, and Northern Ireland, a part of the United Kingdom, which covers the remaining area and is located in the north-east of the island. The population of Ireland is approximately 6.4 million. Just under 4.6 million live in the Republic of Ireland and just over 1.8 million live in Northern Ireland.
The island's geography comprises relatively low-lying mountains surrounding a central plain, with several navigable rivers extending inland. The island has lush vegetation, a product of its mild but changeable oceanic climate, which avoids extremes in temperature. Thick woodlands covered the island until medieval times. Today, the amount of land that is forested in Ireland is just one third of the European average of 35%.
Politically, the island is divided between Ireland, a sovereign state also called the Republic of Ireland, and Northern Ireland, a constituent country of the United Kingdom. They share an open border and both are part of the Common Travel Area.
Both Ireland and the United Kingdom are members of the European Union, and as a consequence there is free movement of people, goods, services and capital across the border.
There are three World Heritage Sites on the island: the Brú na Boinne, Skellig Michael and the Giant's Causeway.A number of other places are on the tentative list, for example the Burren, the Ceide Fields and Mount Stewart.
Some of the most visited sites in Ireland include Bunratty Castle, the Rock of Cashel, the Cliffs of Moher, Holy Cross Abbey and Blarney Castle.Historically important monastic sites include Glendalough and Clonmacnoise, which are maintained as national monuments in the Republic of Ireland.
Dublin is the most heavily touristed region and home to several of the most popular attractions such as the Guinness Storehouse and Book of Kells. The west and south west, which includes the Lakes of Killarney and the Dingle peninsula in County Kerry and Connemara and the Aran Islands in County Galway, are also popular tourist destinations.
Achill Island lies off the coast of County Mayo and is Ireland's largest island. It is a popular tourist destination for surfing and contains 5 Blue Flag beaches and Croaghaun one of the worlds highest sea cliffs. Stately homes, built during the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries in Palladian, Neoclassical and neo-Gothic styles, such as, Castle Ward, Castletown House, Bantry House, are also of interest to tourists. Some have been converted into hotels, such as Ashford Castle, Castle Leslie and Dromoland Castle.