Cumbria ( ; locally ) is a non-metropolitan county in North West England. The county and Cumbria County Council, its local authority, came into existence in 1974 after the passage of the Local Government Act 1972. Cumbria's largest settlement and county town is Carlisle and the only other major urban area is Barrow-in-Furness on the south-western tip of the county which has a population just slightly smaller than Carlisle. The county of Cumbria consists of six districts (Allerdale, Barrow-in-Furness, Carlisle, Copeland, Eden and South Lakeland), and in 2008 had a population of just under half a million. Cumbria is one of the most sparsely populated counties in the United Kingdom, with 73.4 people per km2 (190/sq mi).
Cumbria, the third largest ceremonial county in England by area, is bounded to the north by the Scottish council areas of Dumfries and Galloway and Scottish Borders, to the west by the Irish Sea, to the south by Lancashire, to the southeast by North Yorkshire, and to the east by County Durham and Northumberland.
Cumbria is predominantly rural and contains the Lake District and Lake District National Park, considered one of England's most outstanding areas of natural beauty, serving as inspiration for artists, writers, and musicians. Much of Cumbria is mountainous, and it contains every peak in England over above sea level, with Scafell Pike at being the highest point of England. An upland, coastal, and rural area, Cumbria's history is characterised by invasions, migration, and settlement, as well as battles and skirmishes between the English and Scottish. Historic sites in Cumbria include Carlisle Castle, Furness Abbey, and Hadrian's Wall, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
At the end of the period of British history known as Roman Britain (c. 410 AD) the inhabitants of Cumberland (the county called Cumbria having been created in 1974 from Cumberland and Westmorland) were Cumbric-speaking native "Romano-Britons" who were probably descendants of the Brigantes tribe that the Roman Empire had conquered in about 85AD. (Cumbric was a language related to Old Welsh and there are many Cumbrian dialect words and phrases which take their origins from this language). The Roman civitas of the Carvetii (sometimes considered to be a sub-tribe of the Brigantes) covered almost the same area as what is now Cumbria. Because Cumbria was on the very edge of the Roman province of Britannia, "Romano-Briton" is probably not a very accurate term for the people of these parts, because even after more than three hundred years of Roman military occupation it is unlikely very many of them understood Latin or were particularly enthusiastic about Roman customs. The names "Cumbria" and "Cumberland" are derived from the name these people gave themselves, 'Cymru' (pronounced cum-ri), which originally meant 'compatriots' in Old Welsh. The place names Cymru, its Latinised version Cambria, Cumbria and Cumberland all derive their names from this common root.
During the Early Middle Ages Cumberland formed the core of the Brythonic kingdom of Rheged. By the end of the 7th century most of Cumberland had been incorporated into the Anglo-Saxon kingdom of Northumbria. Most of modern-day Cumbria was ruled by Scotland at the time of the Norman Conquest of England in 1066 and thus was excluded from the Domesday Book survey of 1086. In 1092 Cumberland was invaded by William II and incorporated into England. Nevertheless, the region was dominated by the many wars and border skirmishes between England and Scotland of the Latter Middle Ages and Early Modern Period, and the associated Border Reivers who exploited the dynamic political situation of the region. There were at least three sieges of Carlisle fought between England and Scotland, and two further sieges during the Jacobite Risings.
After the Jacobite Risings of the Eighteenth Century, Cumberland became a more stable place and, as in the rest of Northern England, the Industrial Revolution caused a large growth in urban populations. In particular, the west-coast towns of Workington, Millom and Barrow-in-Furness saw large iron and steelworks develop, with Barrow also developing a significant shipbuilding industry. Kendal, Keswick and Carlisle all became mill towns, with textiles, pencils and biscuits among the products manufactured in the region. The early nineteenth century saw the county gain fame as the Lake Poets and other artists of the romantic movement, such as William Wordsworth and Samuel Taylor Coleridge, lived among, and were inspired by, the lakes and mountains of the region. Later, the children's writer Beatrix Potter also wrote in the region and became a major landowner, granting much of her property to the National Trust on her death. In turn, the large amount of land owned by the National Trust assisted in the formation of the Lake District National Park in 1951, which remains the largest National Park in England and has come to dominate the identity and economy of the county.
The county of Cumbria was created in 1974 from the traditional counties of Cumberland and Westmorland, the Cumberland County Borough of Carlisle, along with the North Lonsdale or Furness part of Lancashire, usually referred to as "Lancashire North of the Sands", (including the county borough of Barrow-in-Furness) and, from the West Riding of Yorkshire, the Sedbergh Rural District. Its strategic authority is Cumbria County Council.
Local papers The Westmorland Gazette and Cumberland and Westmorland Herald continue to use the name of their historic county. Other publications, such as local government promotional material, describe the area as "Cumbria", as do the Lake District National Park Authority and most visitors.