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 West and 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 renowned countryside. The Humber forms the southern boundary with the East Midlands and to the west, across the Pennines, lies North West England. East and North Yorkshire have coastlines on the North Sea.


The confusing administrative divisions of the region complicate defining Yorkshire. For the traveller it is best understood as four counties, North, South, East and West. Traditionally, Yorkshire was treated as a single huge county that was correspondingly subdivided into three large areas, known as "ridings", and one small area for the city of York, which did not belong to any riding. Today, North and East Yorkshire correspond roughly to the old North and East Ridings, while the West Riding has mainly been split between South and West Yorkshire. The following four divisions are those that would be reasonably recognised by most Yorkshire people:

Yorkshire, national parks in green, areas of outstanding natural beauty in grey-green
North Yorkshire
Rural idylls span two national parks (the North York Moors and the Yorkshire Dales); not to be missed are the ancient city of York, Gothic mecca Whitby and Scarborough's award-winning beaches
East Yorkshire
The world's fifth-longest suspension bridge, the thriving city of Hull and plenty of gorgeous coastline disguise this county's bloody Viking past
South Yorkshire
Famed for hilly Sheffield's steel industry, leftie politics and some of the best parts of the Peak District National Park
West Yorkshire
Yorkshire's urban heart, home to trendy Leeds and cultural Bradford; meanwhile, Wakefield's Sculpture Park and the Brontë Country's bleak moorlands beckon you away from the big cities


York Minster is the Church of England's second most significant site after Canterbury in the south.

Other destinations


Upper Nidderdale, one of the Dales, looking up-dale.

Proudly claimed to be God's own country, Yorkshire has wonderful countryside, great cities and warm locals which have a long history of attracting visitors. The people have a strong regional identity and a distinctive dialect (see below in 'Talk' for details) and culture. The emblem of Yorkshire is a white rose, which can occasionally be seen on flags in the county.


Roman Emperor Constantine I was a notable early visitor. He was proclaimed Emperor in Eboracum (today's York) in AD 306. Later, the region 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 religious 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 (known as the Harrying of the North) 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 people 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 base, 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 economic 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.


One of the most prominent features of Yorkshire culture is in the distinctive regional accent and dialect. Some features of the dialect, such as the stereotypical "ey up" greeting and TV catchphrase "trouble at t'mill", have entered into British popular culture. Many tourist souvenirs focus on the dialect, for example in the proliferation of Yorkshire - English "phrasebooks". There's even an online translatorǃ

Perhaps the best example of dialect can be found in the refrain for Yorkshire's unofficial anthem On Ilkla Moor Baht 'at:

"Wheear 'ast tha bin sin' ah saw thee? / On Ilkla Moor baht 'atǃ" ("Where have you been since I saw you? / On Ilkley Moor without a hatǃ")

Generally, Yorkshire folk speak quite understandable English, and even many dialect speakers have a posh voice that they can put on for tourists; however, some phrases may catch you out:

The Yorkshire dialect is one of the few varieties of Modern English which still use the old thou form of you. Thou, spoken as tha, and thee means 'you'; thy means 'your' and thine is 'yours'. There are also words like hither (move to here) sethee (make sure, literally see that you) duntha (down the) and numerous others and if spoken as dialect is very difficult to understand by people from outside the region.

The speech of some small industrial towns in West and South Yorkshire may be especially difficult to understand, though these are not popular tourist destinations.

Get in

By air

The region's major airport is Leeds Bradford Airport, which is very well connected. Doncaster Sheffield Airport also offers flights to Europe & North America. Manchester Airport in North West England is also a good option for accessing South and West Yorkshire. Hull is served by Humberside International Airport, which is on the south side of the River Humber in the East Midlands.

By train

East Coast or First TransPennine Express run regular trains from the major British cities and connecting trains from smaller places.

Sheffield and Leeds are easily accessible from mainland Europe through Eurostar connection services at London St Pancras International station.

By road

The M1 connects Yorkshire with the south of England. The A1 runs north-south through the region and the M62 runs east-west. The major coach operators connect major towns and cities in Yorkshire with each other and the rest of the country

By boat

Ferries connect Hull with Rotterdam in The Netherlands and Zeebrugge in Belgium. Buses connect central Hull with the port.

Get around


Cliffs at Ravenscar, in the North York Moors National Park, near Scarborough


Yorkshire is a prime region for outdoor activities with a fantastic natural heritage and amazing scenery including three National Parks.


A few of the region's specialities include:



York, Sheffield and Leeds are the most convenient bases for exploring the region and have a wide variety of accommodation options to suit every budget. Of course, exploring Yorkshire's stunning countryside involves getting out of the towns and into the many hotels, guesthouses and B&Bs that are scattered throughout the region.

Stay safe

Yorkshire in general is quite safe. But like many places in the north of England, the collapse of various industries in Yorkshire has had a devastating effect on the economy, thus crime rates have become very high in some areas, mostly due to high unemployment. It's very unlikely that tourists will be victims of crime, but you should keep your wits about you if you decide to venture into areas that aren't tourist oriented.

Out in the countryside there is little risk of crime (other than valuables left on view in cars in isolated places), though if going walking in winter take sensible precautions against the weather. Also make sure you have a map and compass if you decide to go off the beaten track, you can very easily get lost without them.

In towns and cities, keep valuables out of sight, and stick to well-lit busy areas at night as is recommended for all UK towns and cities.

Go next

This article is issued from Wikivoyage - version of the Sunday, March 13, 2016. The text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share Alike but additional terms may apply for the media files.