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Wednesday, 24 November 2010 23:21

Aberdeen

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Aberdeen (pronounced /æbərˈdiːn/ ( listen); Scots: Aiberdeen; Scottish Gaelic: Obar Dheathain [ˈopər ˈʝɛhɪn]) is Scotland's third most populous city, one of Scotland's 32 local government council areas and the United Kingdom's 29th most populous city. It has an official population estimate of 210,400.

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, whose mica deposits sparkle like silver. The city has a long, sandy coastline. 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.


Parks, Gardens and Open spaces
Aberdeen has long been famous for its 45 outstanding parks and gardens, and citywide floral displays which include two million roses, eleven million daffodils and three million crocuses. The city has won the Royal Horticultural Society's Britain in Bloom 'Best City' award ten times, the overall Scotland in Bloom competition twenty times and the large city category every year since 1968. At one point after winning a period of nine years straight, Aberdeen was banned from the Britain in Bloom competition to give another city a chance. The city won the 2006 Scotland in Bloom "Best City" award along with the International Cities in Bloom award. The suburb of Dyce also won the Small Towns award.

Duthie Park opened in 1899 on the north bank of the River Dee. It was named after and gifted to the city by Miss Elizabeth Crombie Duthie of Ruthrieston in 1881. It has extensive gardens, a rose hill, boating pond, bandstand, and play area as well as Europe's second largest enclosed gardens the David Welch Winter Gardens. Hazlehead Park, is large and forested, located on the outskirts of the city, it is popular with walkers in the forests, sports enthusiasts, naturalists and picnickers. There are football pitches, two golf courses, a pitch and putt course and a horse riding school.

Aberdeen's success in the Britain in Bloom competitions is often attributed to Johnston Gardens, a small park of one hectare in the west end of the city containing many different flowers and plants which have been renowned for their beauty. The garden was in 2002, named the best garden in the British Islands.

Seaton Park, formerly the grounds of a private house, is on the edge of the grounds of St Machar's Cathedral. The Cathedral Walk is maintained in a formal style with a great variety of plants providing a popular display. The park includes several other areas with contrasting styles to this.

Union Terrace Gardens opened in 1879 and is situated in the centre of the city. It covers 2.5 acres (10,000 m2) in the centre of Aberdeen bordered on three sides by Union Street, Union Terrace and Rosemount Viaduct. The park forms a natural amphitheatre located in the Denburn Valley and is an oasis of peace and calm in the city centre. A recent proposal to build a three storey concrete and steel superstructure in place of the gardens, part of which will provide a commercial concourse, has proved highly controversial.

Situated next to each other, Victoria Park and Westburn Park cover 26 acres (110,000 m2) between them. Victoria Park opened in 1871. There is a conservatory used as a seating area and a fountain made of fourteen different granites, presented to the people by the granite polishers and master builders of Aberdeen. Opposite to the north is Westburn Park opened in 1901. With large grass pitches it is widely used for field sports. There is large tennis centre with indoor and outdoor courts, a children's cycle track, play area and a grass boules lawn.

Aberdeen Airport (ABZ), at Dyce in the north of the city, serves a number of domestic and international destinations including France, the Netherlands, Spain, Belgium, Austria, Ireland and Scandinavian countries. The heliport which serves the oil industry and rescue services is one of the busiest commercial heliports in the world.

Aberdeen railway station is on the main UK rail network and has frequent direct trains to major cities such as Edinburgh, Glasgow and London, including the overnight Caledonian Sleeper train. The station is currently being updated to bring it into the modern age. In 2007 additions were made and a new ticket office was built in the building.

Until 2007, a 1950s-style concrete bus station at Guild Street served out-of-the-city locations; it has since transferred to a new and well-presented bus station just 100 metres to the east off Market Street as part of the Union Square development.

There are six major roads in and out of the city. The A90 is the main arterial route into the city from the north and south, linking Aberdeen to Edinburgh, Dundee, Brechin and Perth in the south and Ellon, Peterhead and Fraserburgh in the north. The A96 links to Elgin and Inverness and the north west. The A93 is the main route to the west, heading towards Royal Deeside and the Cairngorms. After Braemar, it turns south, providing an alternative tourist route to Perth. The A944 also heads west, through Westhill and on to Alford. The A92 was the original southerly road to Aberdeen prior to the building of the A90, and is now used as a tourist route, connecting the towns of Montrose and Arbroath and on the east coast. The A947 exits the city at Dyce and goes on to Newmachar, Oldmeldrum and Turriff finally ending at Banff and Macduff.

Aberdeen Harbour is important as the largest in the north of Scotland and as a ferry route to Orkney and Shetland. Established in 1136, it has been referred to as the oldest business in Britain.

FirstGroup operates the city buses under the name First Aberdeen, as the successor of Grampian Regional Transport (GRT) and Aberdeen Corporation Tramways. Aberdeen is the global headquarters of FirstGroup plc, having grown from the GRT Group. First is still based at the former Aberdeen Tramways depot on King Street, soon to be redeveloped into a new Global Headquarters and Aberdeen bus depot.

Stagecoach Group also run buses in Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire, under the Stagecoach Bluebird brand. Other bus companies (e.g. Megabus) run buses from the bus station to places north and south of the city.

Aberdeen is connected to the UK National Cycle Network, and has a track to the south connecting to cities such as Dundee and Edinburgh and one to the north that forks about 10 miles from the city into two different tracks heading to Inverness and Fraserburgh respectively. Two particularly popular footpaths along old railway tracks are the Deeside Way to Banchory (which will eventually connect to Ballater) and the Formartine and Buchan Way to Ellon, both used by a mixture of cyclists, walkers and occasionally horses. Four park-and-ride sites serve the city: Stonehaven and Ellon (approx 12–17 miles out from the city centre) and Kingswells and Bridge of Don (approx 3–4 miles out).

The area around Aberdeen has been settled since at least 8,000 years ago, when prehistoric villages lay around the mouths of the rivers Dee and Don.

In 1319, Aberdeen received Royal Burgh status from Robert the Bruce, transforming the city economically. The city's two universities, the University of Aberdeen, founded in 1495, and the Robert 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 commercial heliports 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.

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 Fund which 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. During the Wars of the Three Kingdoms of 1644-1647 the city was impartially plundered by both sides. In 1644, it was taken and ransacked by Royalist troops after the Battle of Aberdeen. In 1647 an outbreak of bubonic plague killed a quarter of the population.

In the eighteenth century, a new Town Hall was built and the first social services appeared with the Infirmary at Woolmanhill in 1742 and the Lunatic Asylum in 1779. The council began major road improvements at the end of the century with the main thoroughfares of George Street, King Street and Union Street all completed at the start of the next century.

A century later, the increasing economic importance of Aberdeen and the development of the shipbuilding and fishing industries led to the existing harbour with Victoria Dock, the South Breakwater, and the extension to the North Pier. The expensive infrastructure program had repercussions, and in 1817 the city was bankrupt. However, a recovery was made in the general prosperity which followed the Napoleonic wars. Gas street lighting arrived in 1824 and an enhanced water supply appeared in 1830 when water was pumped from the Dee to a reservoir in Union Place. An underground sewer system replaced open sewers in 1865.

The city was first incorporated in 1891. Although Old Aberdeen still has a separate charter and history, it and New Aberdeen are no longer truly distinct. They are both part of the city, along with Woodside and the Royal Burgh of Torry to the south of the River Dee.

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