Aberdeen a city set in stone

Literally translated as “between the Don and the Dee”, Aberdeen’s two bordering rivers create a beautifully Scottish backdrop to this historic and culturally rich city.  Aberdeen, also called the “Granite City” is a city with over 8,000 years of history.  It’s transformation into a place of economic importance began in 1319 when Robert the Bruce, the Scots King, introduced the Great Charter which transformed Aberdeen from an agrarian centre into property-owning and financially independent community.

The next great event to greatly impact on Aberdeen’s economy was on October 7, 1970, when underwater exploration 110 miles off the Aberdeen coast struck oil and nearly overnight, the city “between the Don and the Dee” became one of Europe’s most prosperous. The traditional textile and fishing industries were eclipsed by the quest for oil and the boom was on.

For the visitor, it is easy to see why Aberdeen is called the “Granite City” as the impressive turreted Town House in Union Street, the castellated Citadel at The Castlegate and the striking gothic Marischal College, the world’s second largest granite structure, are all fine examples of Aberdeen’s most famous export after oil.

We visited Aberdeen because that’s where my wife’s family hails from, and we were visiting places that her grandmother had described to her that were of emotional importance.  I was expecting to find a rather dour city, but was surprisingly delighted to find that Aberdeen is a really charming and lively place.  Yes, there is a lot of grey there, due to the granite buildings, but they are a pleasant, light shade of grey which seem to sparkle on sunny days.      

Given that Aberdeen has long been a major port, the Aberdeen Maritime Museum is well worth a visit. This award-winning museum is located on the historic Shiprow and incorporates Provost Ross’s House, which was built in 1593. The Maritime Museum houses a unique collection covering shipbuilding, fast sailing ships, fishing and port history. It is also the only place in the UK where you can see displays on the North Sea oil and gas industry. Aberdeen’s excellent collections of maritime paintings and objects are utilised to the full in the new museum, with touch screen consoles, computer visual databases, education room and hands-on exhibits all adding a new dimension for visitors and bringing the drama of the North Sea industries such as offshore oil, fishing and shipping, to life.  Aberdeen Maritime Museum also offers visitors a spectacular viewpoint over the busy harbour.

Getting to Aberdeen is very easy, thanks to it being the centre for the North Sea Oil Industry.  There are plenty of connections by air, lots of rail activity, and rail is a great way to travel as the main station is right in the centre of the city.  We’d hired a car and found driving around Aberdeen to be quite easy.  Plus it gave us flexibility.  There are all levels of accommodation in Aberdeen, we chose to stay in a B&B that was close to the city centre, and loved it.

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