Moors & Market Towns: The Physical and Human Geography of Yorkshire

Yorkshire is the biggest county in the UK. Stretching nearly 12,000 square kilometres it has various microclimates, geological topographies and natural features. From wild and uncultivated moors, to its rolling hills or rugged coastline – Yorkshire has some of the most spectacular unspoilt countryside in the whole of the UK. Small wonder many locals and visitors alike have called it ‘God’s Own County’ for hundreds of years.

Physical

Historically, Yorkshire’s natural borders have been and remain the River Tees to the North, the Humber Estuary to the South, the Pennine Hills to the West and the craggy North Sea coast to the East. It is bounded by the counties of Nottinghamshire, Country Durham, Derbyshire, Cheshire and Lancashire.

The two most prized areas of natural beauty, although the county has miles of pristine and largely uninhabited countryside, are in North and South Yorkshire respectively. These are the Yorkshire Dales and the Peak District. Both National Parks attract tens of millions of visitors to the county between them every year. Although, it must be said they are not both entirely in Yorkshire – but we count them still.

The highest natural point in Yorkshire is at the peak of Whernside Mountain in the Dales, which reaches 736 metres (or 2,415 feet) above sea level. On exceptionally clear days, hikers can see the City of Manchester and the peaks of Snowdonia in Wales. On the lower side of things, North Yorkshire is also home to some of Britain’s most impressive caves. This includes the truly spectacular Three Counties System – which is the longest in the UK, and one the top 30 in the world. At its deepest point, at the bottom of a hole called Gavel Pot, it is 253 metres (830 ft) deep.

Human

Historically Yorkshire has been divided into the East Riding, West Riding and North Riding. The city of York was its own independent region for many years. That was until 1974, when Yorkshire was reduced into a somewhat smaller county – mainly under the Yorkshire and Humber Authority Moniker. The city of Middlesbrough was formally relocated to the government region of North East England and the area of Saddleworth was moved into Greater Manchester, despite strong cultural ties to Yorkshire in both regions.

Yorkshire had a population of nearly 5,300,000 during the last census in 2011. The biggest cities in the country are Leeds, Sheffield, Bradford, Hull and York. Combined these metropolitan areas account for around 1/3rd of the county’s population at just over 2 million residents. Yorkshire used to be a huge industrial centre, with coal mines still operating all over the county until the mid-1980s. However, in recent times the populace has shown adaptability and the county’s economy has diversified into other areas including engineering, tourism and financial operations.