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It has an area of 2,156 square kilometres (832 sq mi), making it the eighth largest district in England and the largest non-unitary district. It also has the lowest population density of any English district, with a mean of just 24 persons per square kilometre.
The district council was created on 1 April 1974 under the Local Government Act 1972, from the Penrith urban district, Alston with Garrigill Rural District and Penrith Rural District, all in Cumberland, and Appleby Municipal Borough, part of Lakes urban district and North Westmorland Rural District, all in Westmorland.
The West Coast Main Railway Line runs through the district but with only one station at Penrith. Services on this line are provided by Virgin Trains. The Northern Rail Settle-Carlisle Railway also goes through the district and has stations at Armathwaite, Lazonby, Langwathby, Appleby and Kirkby Stephen.
Sports and recreation
The council is the owner of the Penrith Leisure Centre which is run by a private company under contract. The council also owns a number of playing fields and recreation grounds throughout the district most notably the sports pitches at Frenchfield on the outskirts of Penrith.