By Luna Orofiamma, Ramor Macra, Cavan
Scotland was a country I have wanted to visit for a few years. This amazing opportunity will be one I definitely will not forget! Spending the first week eating Haggis every day until I could no longer stomach it, learning the Scottish lingo, and attending a Scottish Cheile, just made me feel a part of Scotland for two weeks. Our exchange would not have been complete without a visit to the Highland Show where rare breeds of both animals and people were encountered.
On the 8th of June I began my travels from Dublin to Edinburgh. On arrival to Edinburgh I waited for Thomas Fitzgerald (Macra na Feirme exchangee from Kerry). At the arrivals we met with Penny Montgomery Chief Executive of Scottish Young Farmers who welcomed us to Scotland and provided us with a map of how to get from the tram to the hostel. The map was very confusing and we walked around Edinburgh for half an hour before finding Budget Backpackers. While checking in to the hostel, we were curious of whom the other exchangees where. We headed over towards the bar in the hostel and seen three lads sitting at a table with checked shirts. I immediately knew they were farmers! They were on our exchange! The first day ended with a meal in a pub, followed by a ‘quiet’ chat.
Our second day involved a visit to Craiges Farm (Strawberry, Cherry, Potatoe and Raspberry farm). Lunch was had in café situated on the farm, with a breath taking view of the Scottish fields. A guided tour of the Scottish Parliament was next on the list, followed by shopping and a few ice creams in the sun. That evening we all dressed up and headed to the Overseas Club on Princess Street, where we were wined and dined with some of the Scottish Young Farmers staff and members. All of the exchanges got the opportunity to learn to dance to a cheile Scottish style. I had never attempted a cheile before. There’s a first time for everything!
On our third day we met our host families. This day was filled with trips and activities. A visit was payed to the Kelpies, the Falkirk Wheel and the Transport Museum in Glasgow. Not one of my finest days, as I got very badly sunburnt! Later we attended a dinner, where we were introduced to our host families. Myself and Victoria Kyle (Canadian exchangee) had three host families; Jacqueline Crawford, Emma Stevenson and Kirsty Smith. Our host families where located near Dalry in the historic county of Ayrshire.
Our next day began with a trip to the Isle of Cumbrae, also known as the Isle of Millport. Bikes were rented out by both exchangees and host families. This trip involved an 11 mile cycle around the island which took two hours. The cycle didn’t feel as long, as the scenery was amazing. Returning back to our host family, I received an email with my college results from Dundalk Institute of Technology. I received a 2.1 in B.Sc. in Food and Agri Business. Celebrations were a must in a local pub. What a great way to celebrate the completion of four years in Dundalk Institute of Technology and Ballyhaise College of Agriculture.
The next few days were packed with activities between shopping sprees, barbeques, farm visits, stock judging, an art class, and a Young Farmers water fight. A visit was payed to Patterton Holsteins; a large dairy farm with a 150 cow herd, a visit to a farm with robotic milkers and a visit to Chalmerston Farm Eggs.
The first week was nicely finished off with stock judging. It was my first time taking part in the stock judging competition. This involved judging sheep, bulls and heifers. The competition involved both exchangees and members of the Scottish Young Farmers. The results were given out in ‘The Kilted Kangaroo’ in Stirling. Thomas placed first and I placed second. A proud moment for Macra na Feirme.
The Highland Show was our last stop, where we met up with host families, people we met during our exchange, and members of Macra na ferime. Macra members from Co. Down, Armagh, Laois, Meath, Louth, Cork and Kerry travelled over for the show. Some even went that extra further and got the ferry over and rented a car in Holyhead, after missing their flight to Edinburgh. That’s Macra dedication! It was emotional leaving our host families. It seemed like just yesterday that we had been introduced to the rest of the exchangees. The two weeks flew by! Our last day was spent signing a Scottish flag each one of us received at the beginning of the exchange.
I would like to thank Macra na Feirme for this truly unforgettable experience, and my club Navan Macra for this opportunity.
It was a trip of a lifetime!