An Introduction to Aberdeen

Marischal College and Robert the Bruce 'King of Scots' statue, Broad Street, Aberdeen.

Marischal College and Robert the Bruce 'King of Scots' statue, Broad Street, Aberdeen.

by David Wheater

Aberdeen is Scotland’s third largest city and is situated in the north east of Scotland on the mouth of the River Dee.

Aberdeen is the third largest city in Scotland with a population of around 210,000 and has been enjoying an economic boom ever since the discovery of North Sea oil off its shores in 1969.

Nicknamed “the Silver City” because of its granite buildings, which sparkle in the sunshine, Aberdeen’s greatest assets are its striking granite buildings, its beautiful sandy beaches and all its beautiful parks and green open spaces.

Aberdeen has lots to offer visitors, from world-class museums and art galleries to fabulous shopping malls and restaurants serving delicious fresh seafood. Highlights of any visit to Aberdeen would include a visit to St Machar’s CathedralKing’s College in Old Aberdeen, Provost Skene’s House and the Aberdeen Maritime Museum – and that’s just for starters.

Aberdeen is also a great base for exploring the beautiful countryside of Royal Deeside, the magnificent Cairngorms National Park and the many beautiful castles of rural Aberdeenshire.

The city is well worth a visit and offers plenty for visitors to do over a long weekend. One of Aberdeen’s greatest virtues is its enviable seaside location. The beach is only a short drive from the city centre and really rather wonderful. For a relaxing afternoon, take a walk along the beach promenade to the charming fishing village of Footdee, get yourself some fresh fish n’ chips for supper and watch the sun go down on a warm summers evening – bliss!

As mentioned, Aberdeen is predominantly a city built of granite stone earning it a further nick name “the Granite City”. On a sunny day, the quartz contained in the granite can make the city appear to sparkle brightly. Aberdeen has also been nick named the “oil capital of Europe” ,ever since the 1970’s, when oil was discovered off its shores in the North Sea and today it has one of the busiest heliports in the world serving the offshore oil-riggs.

Aberdeen’s economy has boomed over the last thirty years thanks to the oil and gas industry and property prices and rents have remained relatively high as a result. There has been a recent slump in oil and gas prices affecting the city, but this situation seems to be stabilising and the city council is exploring new ways to expand and diversify the city's economy.

The city has an important maritime history and a busy harbour, although the fishing industry has declined over the years due to dwindling fish stocks and increased European quotas. More efficient deep sea fishing methods have also reduced the number of boats, but despite reduced catches, Aberdeen still has one of the largest fish markets in Scotland.

Aberdeen is famed for its long, beautiful beaches and a visit along the beach promenade is a must for any visitor. It is also a city of beautiful parks, which have won many deserved national prizes over the years.

For trout fishermen and outdoor enthusiasts, there are two famous trout rivers, the River Dee and the River Don, which flow north and south of the city to meet the North Sea. There are some really beautiful places to visit along these magnificent rivers, which many visitors sadly don’t take the time to properly discover.

The city has one of the oldest and most respected universities in the U.K. Aberdeen University “King’s College” was founded in the city in 1495 by Bishop Elphinstone and still exists today in Old Aberdeen. The King’s College visitor centre is well worth visiting if only to see the crown spire of Kings College. If you have time, take a wander around the Old Aberdeen campus, which is very charming and picturesque.

Marischal College in the city centre was, until recently, the central campus of the University and used to be a separate university until amalgamated with King’s College in 1860. It is the second largest granite building in the world and it’s neo-Gothic architecture is well worth a visit. Marischal College is now leased to City of Aberdeen Council, but is still used by the university for graduation ceremonies.

Aberdeen is a great place to visit and even the weather isn’t as cold or as wet as people imagine! If you have time, spend a day in the city and I promise you won’t be disappointed.