City in Aberdeen City unitary authority, Scotland, on the rivers Don and Dee, 120 km/75 mi north of Dundee; population (2001) 197,300. The third-largest city in Scotland, it is the administrative headquarters of both Aberdeen City and Aberdeenshire unitary authorities. The unitary authority was created in 1996 from the district of the same name that was part of Grampian region from 1975; before that it was part of Aberdeenshire. North Sea oil is the principal industry, and it is the main centre for offshore oil exploration in Europe. Other industries include oil and gas service industries, fishing, food processing, paper manufacture, textiles, engineering, chemicals, and tourism. Sited on a low-lying coastal area on the banks of the rivers Dee and Don, the city has 3 km/2 mi of sandy beaches.
History In 1179, William the Lion granted Aberdeen a charter and it became a royal burgh. In 1306, during the war of independence, the townspeople stormed Aberdeen Castle while it was held by Edward I of England, using the password ‘Bon Accord’, which was later incorporated as the city's motto, leading Robert the Bruce to grant the city the ‘Freedom Lands’, as they are still known. In 1337, Aberdeen was burnt down by Edward III of England, and in 1489 the area now known as old Aberdeen became an independent burgh and remained so until 1891. During the 18th century, whaling, textiles, and paper and rope manufacture caused the economy to flourish and by the 19th century the town had diversified into fishing and shipbuilding. The centre of the modern city is largely the product of ambitious 19th-century town planning, with the building of Union Street (1801) nearly bankrupting the city's economy. As Aberdeen's traditional industries declined in the 20th century, the discovery of North Sea oil in 1970 boosted the economy, causing rapid urban and industrial expansion.
Features Aberdeen is widely known for its granite buildings – such as Marischal College (1593 and extended in 1836 to become the world's second largest granite building), St Nicholas Kirk (12th and 15th century origins, restored and extended 1835–37), the grammar school (1861–63), and Aberdeen Art Gallery (1884) – which have given it the nickname ‘Silver City’. All the granite building material came from over 100 local quarries – Rubislaw, which closed in 1971, was the largest, and resulted in the biggest man-made hole in Europe. By the 1990s only two quarries remained.
One of the oldest buildings in Aberdeen is the stone Cathedral of St Machar (1370). The 14th-century Balgownie bridge still spans the River Don, and a 16th-century bridge crosses the River Dee. St Andrew's Episcopal Cathedral (1817) is built from craigleith sandstone. Aberdeen Maritime Museum is built around an oil rig, and displays a history of Aberdeen and the North Sea. The Stratosphere is a modern interactive science museum. Public parks and gardens include Duthie Park (1883), containing the Winter Gardens (1899), one of the largest indoor horticultural collections in Europe.
The Catholic King's College, founded in 1495 by Bishop William Elphinstone, merged with the Protestant Marischal College in 1860, to form Aberdeen University. Robert Gordon's Hospital (1731) was a boy's school and then a college, and was granted university status in 1992 as Robert Gordon University. There are shore-based maintenance and service depots for the North Sea oil rigs; an airport and heliport at Dyce, 9.6 km/6 mi northwest of the city, link the mainland to the rigs.
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