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Visiting Aberdeen, Scotland

Updated on October 15, 2012

Where Is Aberdeen?

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A markerAberdeen -
Aberdeen, Aberdeen City, UK
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B markerEdinburgh -
Edinburgh, City of Edinburgh, UK
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C markerGlasgow -
Glasgow, Glasgow City, UK
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D markerLondon -
London, UK
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Why Visit Aberdeen, Scotland

When you live in once place for many years, you tend to take it for granted. Although I was not born in Aberdeen, I lived there from about the age of five, went to school there and eventually University. I learned to appreciate some aspects of the City, but it was really only when I began to see the rest of the world, that I realised why there are many special things about Scotland in general, and Aberdeen in particular. As a resident, I didn't explore the historic sites, I've learned more about them since I left, and now, having seen a lot more of the world, I can assure you that Aberdeen is well worth a visit. Here's why.

Aberdeen is Scotland's third largest city and can be found on the North East coast more than 600 miles north of London.

Many visitors to Scotland never reach Aberdeen, preferring to spend more time in the major cities of Glasgow and Edinburgh, or to visit the West Highlands, Fort William and Inverness.

Aberdeen's situation is one of isolation, it is roughly 100 miles from the scenic area around Inverness, and almost 300 miles from Edinburgh, yet the city is worth a visit; it has a long history, a unique situation and many connections with the royal family who visit Aberdeen every summer on their way to various holiday homes.

Despite its isolation and size (population around 220,000) Aberdeen is one of the most livable cities in the world; it has a high employment rate, excellent educational system (two universities) and has won the "Britain in Bloom' competition at least ten times. The city has more than 45 parks and gardens and more than two million roses bushes. Not impressed? Take a look at the map again, and consider that Aberdeen is further north than any city in the USA. It's not an easy place to garden, yet people do, extremely successfully.

Nicknamed 'the Granite City' as a result of the many granite quarries around town, many Aberdeen buildings are built or faced with granite. After a rainstorm, the buildings glitter in the sun, leading to the city's other nickname 'The Silver City by the Grey North Sea.'

New Kings College at Aberdeen University. I attended many lectures in this building!
New Kings College at Aberdeen University. I attended many lectures in this building! | Source
The Distinctive Crown topping Kings College Chapel,  Aberdeen, where many University graduates are married.  In front of the building is the tomb of Bishop Elphinstone who founded the University in 1495, just three years after Columbus.
The Distinctive Crown topping Kings College Chapel, Aberdeen, where many University graduates are married. In front of the building is the tomb of Bishop Elphinstone who founded the University in 1495, just three years after Columbus. | Source

Tourism. In and around Aberdeen, Scotland

Some landmarks to look for:

St Machars Cathedral. Very very old and with twin spires - not your average Cathedral!

Kings College (and the university buildings in general in Old Aberdeen, (including the Canonry) Old buildings, cobbled streets. Every bit as historic as Oxford or Cambridge.

Provost Skene's House. Visit the historic house and enjoy a coffee while shopping.

Marischal College. Famous for its detailed granite frontage.

Outside the City

There are at least 13 castles in the area, including Balmoral where HM the Queen and other members of the British royal family usually spend their summers.

Real Estate in Aberdeen, Scotland

House prices in Aberdeen are always a surprise. Beginning with the 'oil boom' in the late 70s/80s houseprices increased to levels far higher than most of the rest of Scotland. The cost of housing in Aberdeen is roughly equivalent to the expensive belts around London.

The Weather in Aberdeen

Being on the East cost of Scotland, Aberdeen does not benefit from the passage of the Gulf Stream in the same way as the west coast, and temperatures, especially inland, can be much lower. The average summer temperature is 13 C or 55 F. The average winter temperature is 3C. in the city, but often reaches minus 10 in the countryside.

Aberdeen, Scotland's 3rd City.

A markerSt Machar's Cathedral -
St Machar's Cathedral, 18 Chanonry, Aberdeen, Aberdeen City AB24 1RQ, UK
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St Machar's Cathedral, Old Aberdeen. This path was part of my walk 'home' to University Halls of Residence from lectures, along the street passed Kings College, then past the Cathedral and across Seton Park. A great way to start or end the day.
St Machar's Cathedral, Old Aberdeen. This path was part of my walk 'home' to University Halls of Residence from lectures, along the street passed Kings College, then past the Cathedral and across Seton Park. A great way to start or end the day. | Source

Historic Aberdeen

The area now known as Aberdeen was once several different towns. In the UK a town is known as a city only if it has a Catherdral. Aberdeen became a city with the foundation of St Machar's Cathedral in 1137. The Cathedral area, now known as 'Old Aberdeen' is also home to Aberdeen's oldest University, Kings College, founded in 1494.

As the map shows, Aberdeen lies between two rivers, the river Don to the North, the river Dee to the South. The Cathedral and University were built at the mouth of the Don. Further south, the mouth of the River Dee forms a natural harbour, this was the heart of the fishing industry and eventually of ship building in the town. Districts of Aberdeen such as Torry, Nigg and Footdee were once separate fishing villages.

Getting to Aberdeen, Scotland

Aberdeen is more than 600 miles north of London and over 300 miles north of Edinburgh. The drive from London takes 9-10 hours. Fortunately Aberdeen has its own international airport. with daily flights to other parts of Europe and the UK. The easiest way to reach Aberdeen from the USA is to fly to London and then to Aberdeen, or, to avoid the queues at London's airports, fly direct to Edinburgh or Glasgow and travel on from there.

Aberdeen Trivia

  • Superstar Annie Lenox was born and educated in Aberdeen.
  • When world war I was declared, the headline in Aberdeen's local paper was "Giant Turnip Found At Turriff". Legend has it that when the Titanic sank, the same paper's headline was 'Titanic sinks - Aberdeen man feared drowned' but that one may not be true!
  • Aberdeen was once famous for shipbuilding. The clipper ship Thermopylae, which preceeded the more famous Cutty Sark, broke many speed records and is regarded as the fastest slipper ship ever built.
  • Marischal College on Broad Street is the second largest granite building in the world (after the Escorial, Madrid)
  • Aberdeen had three Cathedrals, St Machar's, St Mary's and St Andrew's. St Machars is the world's oldest granite cathedral.
  • Aberdeen has the busiest civilian heliport in Europe. It was founded in 1136.
  • The Shore Porters Society is still in business. It was founded in Aberdeen in 1498 and is the world's oldest documented transport company.

Understanding the Language

Aberdonian is not exactly an accent, it's more of a dialect and there are many dialect words in what is know as 'Doric' the lowland Scots of the NE. IN most cases the letter 'w' is repalced by an 'f', so that the words who, what where why and when, become foo, fat, far, faan and faar. A common Aberdeen greeting is 'Foo're ye deein' which translates to 'How are you.', but the more common version is 'Fit like.'

Balmoral Castle, summer home of HM Queen Elizabeth II, is just outside Aberdeen.
Balmoral Castle, summer home of HM Queen Elizabeth II, is just outside Aberdeen. | Source

Who Loves Aberdeen?

Many famous people, or their ancestors, came originally from Aberdeen.

  • Elvis Presley's ancestors came from the village of Lonmay.
  • Robert Louis Stevenson wrote Treasure Island while staying in Braemar in the summer of 1881.
  • Lord Byron was born in Aberdeen and spent his childhood there.
  • Robert Burns' father and ancestors came from the Aberdeen area and Burns visited the area himself.
  • Scotty, the fictional engineer on the starship Enterprise will come from Aberdeen.

Others have chosen to spend time there:

  • Lawrence of Arabia stayed sought sanctuary in an Aberdeenshire village after the first world war.
  • Charlie Chaplin and his wife often visited Banchory.
  • Since the time of Queen Victoria, the British Royal family have spent their summers at Balmoral Castle.

Aberdonians Who Left

The Scots are famous for their travels and Scots from Aberdeen are no exception, here are some Aberdonians who made their mark elsewhere in the world.

  • James Gibbs, architect of St Martin-in-the-Fields and St Bartholomew's Hospital in London, was born in Footdee (Fittie).
  • Charles Cameron from Aberdeen designed many buildings in Leningrad during the reign of Catherine the Great.
  • Thomas Blake Glover (sometimes known as The Scottish Samurai) was born in Fraserburgh and lived in Aberdeen as a child. A national hero in Japan, he was the first non-Japanese to be awarded the Order of the Rising Sun.
  • Patrick Gordon from Aberdeen was principal military instructor for Peter the Great of Russia.
  • Bertie Forbes, founder of the Forbes publishing empire, was born in New Deer Aberdeenshire where he worked for one of my great great great great great great uncles. (give or take a great or two)

Famous Foods

There are some Aberdonian foods I really miss.

  • Scots Pies
  • White Pudding Suppers ( a 'supper' is like a fast food meal, in other words it means 'with chips' White puddings are made from oatmeal and then deep fried. Delicious!
  • Rowies (or Aberdeen Rolls)

While the first two can be found outside Aberdeen (you can even order white puddings from Amazon) I've not so far found a source of Aberdeen rolls. These are delicious pancake sized rolls made in a way similar to french croissant, but with a different texture. and saltier taste. They are at their best served warm, with butter.

Have you visited Aberdeen? Would you like to?

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    • Amaryllis profile image

      Lesley Charalambides 5 years ago from New Hampshire

      Then it's all been worthwhile! Seriously - that was my intention. Thanks for commenting.

    • Robin profile image

      Robin Edmondson 5 years ago from San Francisco

      You have definitely piqued my interest in Aberdeen! I have never been to Scotland; we didn't have time when we were in the UK. It is on the top of my list next time we travel oversees though, and Aberdeen sounds like a must see!


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