Aberdeen is Scotland's third most populous city, one of Scotland's 32 local government council areas and the United Kingdom's 37th most populous built-up area, with an official population estimate of 220,420.
Nicknames include the Granite City, the Grey City and the Silver City with the Golden Sands. During the mid-18th to mid-20th centuries, Aberdeen's buildings incorporated locally quarried grey granite, which can sparkle like silver due to its high mica content. Since the discovery of North Sea oil in the 1970s, other nicknames have been the Oil Capital of Europe or the Energy Capital of Europe. The area around Aberdeen has been settled since at least 8,000 years ago, when prehistoric villages lay around the mouths of the riversDee and Don. The city has a long, sandy coastline.
Aberdeen received Royal Burgh status from David I of Scotland(1124–53), transforming the city economically. The city's two universities, the University of Aberdeen, founded in 1495, andRobert Gordon University, which was awarded university status in 1992, make Aberdeen the educational centre of the north-east. The traditional industries of fishing, paper-making, shipbuilding, and textiles have been overtaken by the oil industry and Aberdeen's seaport. Aberdeen Heliport is one of the busiest commercialheliports in the world and the seaport is the largest in the north-east of Scotland.
Aberdeen has won the Britain in Bloom competition a record-breaking ten times, and hosts the Aberdeen International Youth Festival, a major international event which attracts up to 1000 of the most talented young performing arts companies. In 2012, Mercernamed Aberdeen the 56th most liveable city in the World, as well as the fourth most liveable city in Britain. In 2012, HSBC named Aberdeen as a leading business hub and one of eight 'super cities' spearheading the UK's economy, marking it as the only city in Scotland to receive this accolade.
The Aberdeen area has seen human settlement for at least 8,000 years. The city began as two separate burghs: Old Aberdeen at the mouth of the river Don; and New Aberdeen, a fishing and trading settlement, where the Denburn waterway entered the river Dee estuary. The earliest charter was granted by William the Lion in 1179 and confirmed the corporate rights granted by David I. In 1319, the Great Charter of Robert the Bruce transformed Aberdeen into a property-owning and financially independent community. Granted with it was the nearby Forest of Stocket, whose income formed the basis for the city's Common Good Fundwhich still benefits Aberdonians. During the Wars of Scottish Independence, Aberdeen was under English rule, so Robert the Bruce laid siege to Aberdeen Castle before destroying it in 1308, followed by the massacring of the English garrison and the retaking of Aberdeen for the townspeople. The city was burned by Edward III of England in 1336, but was rebuilt and extended, and called New Aberdeen. The city was strongly fortified to prevent attacks by neighbouring lords, but the gates were removed by 1770.
An early form of Welsh was widely spoken in Southern Scotland (part of yr Hen Ogledd) in medieval times, as evidenced (for example) by the poem Y Gododdin. Old Aberdeen is the approximate location of Aberdon, the first settlement of Aberdeen; this literally means "the confluence of the Don [ie. with the sea]" in relation to the local river. The modern name Aberdeen literally means between the Dee (the other local river) and Don. The Celtic prefix Aber- means "the confluence" in relation to the rivers, as in modern Welsh (Aberystwyth, Aberdare, Aberbeeg etc.).
Some scholars believe the name came from the Gaelic prefix Aber- and da-aevi (variation:Da-abhuin, Da-awin) – which means "the mouth of two rivers". In Gaelic the name is Obar Dheathain (variation: Obairreadhain) and in Latin, the Romansreferred to it as Devana. Mediaeval (or ecclesiastical) Latin has it as Aberdonia. In the Welsh language Aber means mouth and is a very common name element, appearing in e.g. Abertawe (Swansea), Aberdyfi (Aberdovey), and Aberystwyth.
Being sited between two river mouths, the city has little natural exposure of bedrock. This leaves local geologists in a slight quandary: despite the high concentration of geoscientists in the area (courtesy of the oil industry), there is only a vague understanding of what underlies the city. To the south side of the city, coastal cliffs expose high-grade metamorphic rocks of the Grampian Group; to the south-west and west are extensive granites intruded into similar high-grade schists; to the north the metamorphics are intruded by gabbroic complexes instead. The small amount of geophysics done, and occasional building-related exposures, combined with small exposures in the banks of the River Don, suggest that it is actually sited on an inlier of Devonian "Old Red" sandstones and silts. The outskirts of the city spread beyond the (inferred) limits of the outlier onto the surrounding metamorphic/ igneous complexes formed during the Dalradian period (approximately 480–600 million years ago) with sporadic areas of igneous Diorite granites to be found, such as that at theRubislaw quarry which was used to build much of the Victorian parts of the city.
On the coast, Aberdeen has a long sand beach between the two rivers, the Dee and the Don, which turns into high sand dunes north of the Don stretching as far asFraserburgh; to the south of the Dee are steep rocky cliff faces with only minor pebble and shingle beaches in deep inlets. A number of granite outcrops along the south coast have been quarried in the past, making for spectacular scenery and good rock-climbing.
The city extends to 184.46 km2 (71.22 sq mi), and includes the former burghs of Old Aberdeen, New Aberdeen,Woodside and the Royal Burgh of Torry to the south of River Dee. In 2011 this gave the city a population density of 1,169/km2. The city is built on many hills, with the original beginnings of the city growing from Castle Hill, St. Catherine's Hill and Windmill Hill.
Christianity is the main religion practised in the city. Aberdeen's largest denominations are the Church of Scotland (through thePresbytery of Aberdeen) and the Roman Catholic Church, both with numerous churches across the city, with the Scottish Episcopal Church having the third-largest number. The most recent census in 2001 showed that Aberdeen has the highest proportion of non-religious residents of any city in Scotland, with nearly 43% of citizens claiming to have no religion and several former churches in the city have been converted into bars and restaurants. In the Middle Ages, the Kirk of St Nicholas was the only burgh kirk and one of Scotland's largest parish churches. Like a number of other Scottish kirks, it was subdivided after the Reformation, in this case into the East and West churches. At this time, the city also was home to houses of the Carmelites (Whitefriars) and Franciscans (Greyfriars), the latter of which surviving in modified form as the chapel of Marischal College as late as the early 20th century.
St Machar's Cathedral was built twenty years after David I (1124–53) transferred the pre-Reformation Diocese from Mortlach in Banffshire to Old Aberdeen in 1137. With the exception of the episcopate of William Elphinstone (1484–1511), building progressed slowly.Gavin Dunbar, who followed him in 1518, completed the structure by adding the two western spires and the southern transept. It is now a congregation of the Church of Scotland. Aberdeen has two other cathedrals: St. Mary's Cathedral is a Roman Catholic cathedral inGothic style, erected in 1859. In addition, St. Andrew's Cathedral serves the Scottish Episcopal Church. It was constructed in 1817 as Archibald Simpson's first commission and contains a memorial to the consecration of the first bishop of the Episcopal Church in the United States of America, which took place nearby.
Aberdeen has two universities, the ancient University of Aberdeen, and Robert Gordon University, a modern university often referred to as RGU. Aberdeen's student rate of 11.5% is higher than the national average of 7%.
The University of Aberdeen began as King's College, Aberdeen, which was founded in 1495by William Elphinstone (1431–1514), Bishop of Aberdeen and Chancellor of Scotland. Marischal College, a separate institution, was founded in "New" Aberdeen by George Keith, fifth Earl Marischal of Scotland in 1593. These institutions were merged by order of Parliament in 1860 to form the University of Aberdeen. The university is the fifth oldest in the English-speaking world and offers degrees in a full range of disciplines. Its main campus is in Old Aberdeen in the north of the city and it currently has approximately 14,000 students. The university's debating society is the oldest in Scotland, founded in 1848 as the King's College Debating Society.
Robert Gordon's College (originally Robert Gordon's Hospital) was founded in 1750 by the merchant Robert Gordon, grandson of the map maker Robert Gordon of Straloch, and was further endowed in 1816 by Alexander Simpson of Collyhill. Originally devoted to the instruction and maintenance of the sons of poor burgesses of guild and trade in the city, it was reorganised in 1881 as a day and night school for secondary and technical education. In 1903, the vocational education component of the college was designated aCentral Institution and was renamed as the Robert Gordon Institute of Technology in 1965. In 1992, university status was awarded and it became Robert Gordon University. The university has expanded and developed significantly in recent years, and was named Best Modern University in the UK for 2012 by The Sunday Times. It was previously The Sunday TimesScottish University of the Year for 2011, primarily due to its record on graduate employment. The citation for the 2011 award read: "With a graduate unemployment rate that is lower than the most famous universities, including Oxford and Cambridge, plus a flourishing reputation for research, high student satisfaction rates and ambitious plans for its picturesque campus, the Robert Gordon University is The Sunday Times Scottish University of the Year". RGU had two campuses: one in the city centre at Schoolhill/St. Andrew Street and a larger suburban campus at Garthdee and currently has approximately 15,500 students. As of 2013, the Garthdee campus was expanded to include all schools, with the Schoolhill/St. Andrew Street campus being sold to unknown buyers. The closure of the Schoolhill site includes the removal of the Student Union building, giving Aberdeen the nebulous distinction of having two universities but no student bar.