Aberdeen is a city, located in the north east of Scotland with strong ties to Shetland. It is the most isolated major city in the UK, and leads a fairly separate life from Glasgow and Edinburgh, bar a few football matches.
From a Shetland point of view, it forms the southern corner of an almost equilateral triangle, with Tórshavn in Faroe and Bergen in Norway forming the north west and north east corners. For various reasons, Aberdeen is now the most important part of this triangle, although historically most of Shetland’s connections have been with Bergen. Aberdeen and Bergen both have similar populations, at around two hundred thousand people, with Bergen being slightly larger. A small community of Shetlanders is long established in the city. The city is less diverse than many in the UK, but there are notable minorities of English, Americans, Pakistanis and Chinese in the city.
Aberdeen has two main points of relevance to Shetland: transport and the oil industry. Aberdeen is the UK’s oil capital, and a lot of administrative work related to that goes on there. It is also a major player in the fishing industry, although in more recent times this has declined. Fertiliser making and paper making are two other important industries.
Aberdeen appears to date back to Pictish times, and its name means the “Mouth of the River Don” in Brythonic. Its position between the Rivers Don and the Dee, and its excellent natural harbour has been of great benefit to it. The oldest known charter dates to 1179. It has a cathedral and at one point in the Middle Ages had two universities – while Scotland as a whole had three (St Andrews), and England had two (Oxford and Cambridge). In the 14th century, it was almost entirely destroyed by the English. In the 15th century, the foundations for the modern city were laid, and many streets from that period remain. There are a couple of cathedrals here, and the Roman Catholic one represents a diocese including Shetland.
Some slightly misleading claims have been made about Aberdeen, such as that it is the nearest part of the British railway network to Shetland. This is untrue – the stations at Thurso and Wick are closer to Shetland than Aberdeen is, or indeed perhaps any part of the Norwegian network. In terms of major railway stations, Inverness is probably nearer than Aberdeen as well. However, Aberdeen is still the nearest major city in Scotland.
Aberdeen played a minor role in the Hanseatic Trade which took in Shetland. It has also traded with Scandinavia and the Baltic for centuries and this is more the case than Edinburgh, Dundee or Glasgow. Due to the nature of the Scottish coastline, travel between Aberdeen and Edinburgh, not to mention England used to frequently take place by sea, until the building of the Forth and Tay Bridges and a decent road network.
It is the biggest exporter of granite in the UK, and the dominance of grey granite gives the city a somewhat dour look. Most of the city is low rise, although there are some tower blocks. Like Shetland, Aberdeen has benefitted considerably from North Sea oil, with 200 new companies moving in as a result. However, neither place appears to be properly looking into what they’re going to do when the oil runs out.