Formed in 1974, North Yorkshire is England’s largest county – and the most beautiful of Yorkshire's four counties. Most of the scenic Yorkshire Dales and starkly beautiful North York Moors lie within its boundaries – and almost half of the county is covered by National Parks. Surprisingly, considering its natural beauty, North Yorkshire's most popular tourist lure is urbanised: York is England's most-visited city outside of London.
The spa town of Harrogate and the breezy seaside resorts of Scarborough and Whitby also draw hordes of visitors. Outside its urban areas, North Yorkshire has survived almost untouched by the Industrial Revolution. Since the Middle Ages, the county has focused primarily on sheep and their woolly produce.
The county is located primarily in Yorkshire and the Humber but partly in northeast England. It borders East Riding of Yorkshire, South Yorkshire, West Yorkshire, Lancashire, Cumbria and County Durham. Its largest settlement is Harrogate; the largest urban area is Teesside; and Northallerton is North Yorkshire’s county town. The county’s other notable districts include Craven, Hambleton, Harrogate, Richmondshire, Ryedale, Scarborough and Selby.
Road: The A1 motorway is the main link in and out of North Yorkshire. Other motorways within the county are the A66 near Darlington and a stretch of the M62 motorway close to Eggborough. Smaller trunk routes include the A168/A19, A64, A66 and A174 roads.
Rail: With 11 platforms, York railway station is the largest in the county. It’s a tourist attraction in its own right (and adjacent to the National Railway Museum). The East Coast Main Line bisects the county. Virgin Trains East Coast, TransPennine Express, Grand Central, and Northern also run rail services.
Bus: National Express and Megabus operate long-distance coach services. Local bus service operators include Arriva Yorkshire, Harrogate Bus Company, Scarborough & District (East Yorkshire Motor Services), Yorkshire Coastliner, First York and the local Dales & District.
Air: Nearby airports include Durham Tees Valley, Newcastle, Robin Hood, Doncaster, Sheffield and Leeds Bradford.
North Yorkshire is known for its beauty, which attracts many visitors and draws hordes of potential residents. It has also formerly seen house prices rising faster than in the London commuter belt. The priciest area within North Yorkshire of late has been Alne; the least expensive, Knottingley. Recent property sales within the region have mostly involved semi-detached properties.
Harrogate’s Cold Bath Road area has become the region’s version of Notting Hill, thanks to its coffee house and artisan retail culture. Ripon’s properties nearby the city have also been keenly sought-after, partly due to the renowned local grammar school. Tadcaster and its surrounding villages have seen positive house price forecasts. There’s a continuing trend for purchasing property in towns like Harrogate and York. The hunger for country houses is also predicted to return.
Want to splash some cash in North Yorkshire? Ripon's streets are lined with mediaeval and Georgian buildings, making browsing most pleasurable – offering everything from independent boutiques to high-street chains. Stock up on Thomas the Bakers' award-winning Yorkshire curd tarts and the homemade breads from Davill's Bakery. Just off the market square is a collection of independent local makers, artists, growers and retailers in Handpicked Hall.
The Coppergate Centre is York's main shopping mall. It’s home to many big-name shops, cafés, galleries and museums. Otherwise, wander the mazy streets to discover an array of independent boutiques, vintage stores and popular brands. Stonegate is an attractive old street brimming with interesting small shops, or The Shambles, Europe's best preserved Medieval street – and the UK's most visited – boasts a wealth of retailers and eateries.
Other recommended destinations include Inkwell for second-hand albums, old record players, books and comics. Fossgate Books is an old-school second-hand bookshop with titles covering every topic possible; while Spelman Booksellers has been selling rare books since 1910 by an open fireplace that makes it a browser's paradise in winter. The Antiques Centre is a Georgian townhouse showcasing the wares of numerous local dealers.
Sports: North Yorkshire’s several football clubs include Middlesbrough, York City, Harrogate Town, and Whitby Town. Yorkshire County Cricket Club play in Scarborough. York City Knights play in the Rugby League Championship. There are many local racecourses, such as Catterick Bridge, Redcar, Ripon, Thirsk and York. There’s also one motor-racing venue, Croft Circuit. The game Rock-It-Ball evolved in the county.
Family: Sea Life Sanctuary preserves coral reefs, seals, turtles, octopuses, seahorses, otters and other creatures. You can visit it via the miniature North Bay Railway and many of its attractions are outdoors. Jorvik Viking Centre offers interactive multimedia exhibits to bring history to life, reconstructing the Viking settlement unearthed here in the 1970s. A 'time-car' monorail transports you through 9th-century Jorvik (the Viking name for York).
Cultural: Beautiful York Minster is the largest medieval Gothic cathedral in Northern Europe. York’s National Railway Museum – the biggest in the world, with more than 100 locomotives – is crammed with engrossing stuff. The world-famous Flying Scotsman, the first steam engine to break the 100mph barrier (and now restored to full working order), is housed here. Breath-taking Castle Howard is set in the Howardian Hills (recognisable from both the TV and movie versions of Brideshead Revisited). Local heritage railways include the North Yorkshire Moors Railway, the Derwent Valley Light Railway, the Embsay and Bolton Abbey Steam Railway, and the Wensleydale Railway.
Events: Every autumn, Musicport World Music Festival attracts names such as The Buena Vista Social Club, the Levellers, Courtney Pine and Talvin Singh. The area outside York’s Coppergate Centre is used to host music performances, theatre productions and some of the county’s most popular annual happenings – such as the St Nicholas Fayre Christmas market. Whitby Goth Weekend lures thousands of alternative types. There are hosts of agricultural festivals. Other notable attractions include Scarborough Book Festival, Harrogate Spring Flower Show, the Malton Food Lovers Festival, and the Great Yorkshire Steam Fair.