Yorkshire is the largest of the 39 historic counties of England. A long history of administrative tinkering has complicated defining what precisely is Yorkshire, with parts of the traditional ridings now being part of North East England (e.g. nearby Middlesbrough). However, the region has a strong cultural identity and offers visitors a wonderful variety of thriving urban centres, important historic towns and world famous countryside. The Humber forms a southern boundary with the East Midlands and to the west, across the Pennines, lies North West England. East and North Yorkshire has coastlines on the North Sea.
The confusing administrative divisions of the region complicate defining Yorkshire. For the traveller it is best understood as four regions, North, South, East and West. Traditionally the area was split into three ridings and the city of York, which did not belong to any riding. The following four divisions are those that would be reasonably recognised by most Yorkshire people:
|North Yorkshire - rural idylls of moors and dales, the historic city of York and coastal gems Whitby and Scarborough|
|East Yorkshire - hosts formerly the world's longest suspension bridge, the thriving city of Hull and plenty of gorgeous coastline|
|South Yorkshire - famed for Sheffield's industry but also has part of a the Peak District National Park|
|West Yorkshire - as well as trendy Leeds and Bradford, near Wakefield is the world's first nature reserve|
- York - (unofficial) county town, rich in medieval heritage, with a beautiful historic centre and breathtaking Minster
- Bradford - multicultural area with museums and fantastic architecture
- Kingston upon Hull (Hull) - historic riverside port, the largest city in East Yorkshire
- Leeds - Yorkshire's biggest city boasts thriving culture with museums, shops, restaurants, bars and clubs
- Sheffield - "built on seven hills", famous for industrial heritage and progressive music
- Wakefield - famous for mystery plays and the Rhubarb Triangle
- Bronte Country - a literature-inspiring region of moorland and atmospheric villages, close to Bradford, Keighley and Halifax
- Gripping coastline - cliffs, beaches, villages and spa towns like Scarborough, enjoy a bracing walk and fish and chips in Whitby
- Harrogate - beautiful Victorian spa town near York
- National Parks - the Yorkshire Moors (North Yorkshire), the Yorkshire Dales (West and North Yorkshire) and part of the Peak District (South Yorkshire), Britain's first National Park established 1951
Proudly claimed to be 'God's own county', Yorkshire wondrous countryside, great cities and warm locals have a long history of attracting visitors.
Roman Emperor Constantine I was a notable early visitor. He was proclaimed Emperor in Eboracum (today's York) in AD 306. Later, the area was popular with Danish Vikings who left their mark on the area: Eboracum became Jórvík. In 1066, the Battle of Stamford Bridge in the East Riding of Yorkshire, played an important part in the lead up to that year's main fixture, the Battle of Hastings.
The Norman Conquest put York on the religous map when William the Conqueror looked at England and thought that a cathedral in York would be a nice counterpoint to one in Canterbury. Little did he realize that northern England had not been fully subjugated and that the cathedral's construction would require a campaign of genocide against the not so friendly locals.
The overthrow of King Richard II in 1399 led to antagonisms between the Royal houses of York and Lancaster which came to a head in the Wars of the Roses, a 20 year series of conflicts. The Yorkists lost the war at the battle of Bosworth Field in 1485 but had the consolation of hosting and winning the bloodiest battle ever on English soil, the Battle of Towton (near Selby, North Yorkshire), in which 28,000 died.
Leeds' industrial history took form in the 16th and 17th centuries as it was a regional centre of wool processing. Huddersfield, Hull and Sheffield were also important wool centres. Coal mining became important to West Yorkshire. North Yorkshire retained its agricultural basis, which now complements its tourist sector.
In the 19th century, Harrogate and Scarborough flourished as spa towns believed to have healing mineral waters. Both remain desirable get-aways. At this time, the industrial revolution was driven by coal, textile and steel (particularly in Sheffield). This greatly changed the way of life for many people who moved to crowded cities that lacked the infrastructure to support them. Cholera outbreaks were a big risk.
The 20th century saw the decline of the industrial centres, many of which spent several decades in the wilderness. Urban regeneration projects and a shifting of corporate focus away from London has led to these towns now hosting professional services in addition to a modern industrial sector.