The Silver City

We are in Aberdeen, a city known for its extensive use of granite as a building material and because of this it is also sometimes called the granite city or the silver city. On the train here from York, I tweeted that I was heading north in Scotland. Someone responded to my tweet with, “Ooh, lucky you. Unless it’s Aberdeen… :-/“. You know who you are! Aberdeen often gets this response I have found, along with descriptives like dour, grey, cold and isolated. But what are my own impressions after two days here?

A bit of background first. Aberdeen is known as the oil capital of Europe because of interests in the North Sea oil fields. As a result, it is quite a prosperous city and this is evident I think, by the ridiculous number of hair salons I have seen while walking around. Surely there is a point of hair salon saturation for a city. This does not appear to have happened in Aberdeen. I have never seen so many in one city in all my life.

Aberdeen is not a beautiful city. It’s a masculine city and so I could never describe it as beautiful but it is handsome. It is unpretentious and without the pomp and flamboyance of cities like London and Paris. It is also stately, solid and dependable; like a father who ensures order and stability. Does this make it boring though? I haven’t quite made up my mind. Is it possible to be naughty in Aberdeen? To be disobedient? I hope so but I am not sure.

The granite that forms the building blocks of all the buildings here gives the city a very uniform appearance. It also requires little maintenance and so the city looks generally well-kept. Perhaps I’ll post some photos and let my readers have a glimpse for themselves.

The first two were taken at the University of Aberdeen.



The next two photos are of buildings in the city centre which have fairy-tale-looking towers at the top called bartizans.


This next building is really impressive. It’s Marischal College and is owned by the University of Aberdeen but is on long-term lease to the city council. Lucky councillors! It’s the second largest granite building in the world. IMG_5091


And finally, it’s not all grey: here’s a tiny splash of colour outside the library.IMG_5113

9 Replies to “The Silver City”

  1. Wow what a great description! Handsome, in a masculine way really fits in with what I know about Aberdeen,

    The things I know about Aberdeen are: friends of mine lived there and yes they said it was very grey and cold and dark most of the time… my ex-girlfriend comes from near there and experienced a lot of bullying as a child for not being English… at school a student came back to talk to us as 6th formers about her Uni experience and she said all the lecturers were MCPS…

  2. You know who you are!

    Ahem, yes, sorry about that! I lived and worked on the outskirts of Aberdeen for 3 months and I found it a very odd place. The city existed only of farmers until the 70’s, and you can still see a two-tiered wealth system depending on whether you’re in oil and gas or still a farmer.

    The standard of driving is shocking, and it’s the only place I’ve ever seen a second hand car dealership which sells exclusively Jags, Mercs, BMW, Porsche, etc. I found the pristine buildings weird, but as you’ve shown, the university is very impressive.

    Aberdeenshire is lovely though – there’s some great countryside along the Dee and Don (if you don’t mind the chance of snow 11 of 12 months of the year 🙂 ), and Aberdonians resolutely hate Donald Trump, I think! In fact, I know a few Aberdeen locals and they’re all great, forthright people!

    That’s my experience, anyway.

    1. Australia has a bit of the two-tiered wealth system too thanks to mining. They call it a two-speed economy. And yes, we were almost run over yesterday by a rather large woman sitting in her car. I did think at the time that if she spent a bit less time inside her car she might not be so large.

  3. I’ve been to Aberdeen – the wind off the North sea properly messes your hair up so they really need all those salons

    1. You are probably right. We went for a walk along the esplanade and were nearly blown away by the wind so that may well explain the existence of so many hair salons.

  4. Looks like you are getting in as much sight-seeing as possible before you leave Rachel! I enjoyed reading this, I have never been to Aberdeen. It does look cold and dark but I love that ‘splash of colour’ outside the Library 🙂

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