Created by the Local Government Act 1972, it covers an area of 8,654 square kilometres (3,341 sq mi), making it the largest county in England. The majority of the Yorkshire Dales and the North York Moors lie within North Yorkshire's boundaries, and around 40% of the county is covered by National Parks. The largest towns are York (153,717), Middlesbrough (138,400), Harrogate (73,576) and Scarborough (61,749); the county town, Northallerton, has a population of 16,832.
The Department for Communities and Local Government considered reorganising North Yorkshire County Council's administrative structure by abolishing the seven district councils and the county council to create a North Yorkshire unitary authority. The changes were planned to be implemented no later than 1 April 2009. This was rejected on 25 July 2007 so the County Council and District Council structure will remain.
The largest settlement in the administrative county is Harrogate, the second largest is Scarborough, while in the ceremonial county, the largest is York. The largest urban area within the ceremonial county is the Middlesbrough built-up area sub-division of Teesside.
York, Middlesbrough and Redcar and Cleveland are unitary authority boroughs which form part of the ceremonial county for various functions such as the Lord Lieutenant of North Yorkshire, but do not come under county council control. Uniquely for a district in England, Stockton-on-Tees is split between North Yorkshire and County Durham for this purpose. Middlesbrough, Stockton-on-Tees, and Redcar and Cleveland boroughs form part of the North East England region.