One month ago I left Kingston, Ontario and traveled on a plane bound for Glasgow, UK. I had been looking forward to this opportunity since I joined Junior Farmers’ in 2011 and it surely was worth the wait! Before I left for my exchange I was speaking with a lady who grew up in Scotland and I asked her what kind of weather I could expect when I arrived in June. Her response to me was “Oh Lass, you can’t expect the weather in Scotland.” She was so right! When I landed in Scotland it was cold and rainy (I wore tights under my jeans, sweaters and scarves for the first week). The next 2 weeks, we hit a heat wave (up to 29°C) and I didn’t see a drop of rain for the remainder of the exchange.
I had travelled by myself before, but as soon as my first host picked me up from the airport, I knew that I wasn’t traveling alone at all. I had lots of company amoungst the 13 other exchangees from places like Tasmania, Switzerland, New Zealand, U.S.A., Northern Ireland, Republic of Ireland, Wales, Finland and England; Perth JF member Amanda Brodhagen; the hosts and their families; and other Scottish Young Farmer members.
Lanarkshire District, Biggar YFC
My first host, Jane, lived on a beautiful hill farm in Dunsyre. Her family farmed 3000 acres with 2000 Scottish Blackface Sheep and some beef cattle. She also had 10 sheepdogs! The first day, I met the other delegates and went on a boat cruise. We toured Loch Lomond, the largest body of freshwater in Great Britain, known as “The Gateway to The Highlands.” The next day we toured a dairy farm with a 70 point rotary parlour; a biomass facility that was burning wood chips to generate power; and a farm with British Blue Cattle. We woke up early the next day and took a ferry to the Isle of Cumbrae for a picnic lunch and a beautiful bike ride around the island. At night we toured of Harbro Feed Mill. On my final day in Lanarkshire we had a free day and decided to climb Tinto Hill for a 360° view of the area and to see from above some of the places that we had been touring.
The Royal Highland Show
We were lucky enough to attend the Highland Show for the entire duration. It was a large show with a lot to see and do. We watched the highland cattle show; chainsaw carvers and logging demonstrations; someone making horseshoes; honey demonstrations; a dog trained to “herd” ducks; and a birds of prey demonstration. I also learned how to make scotch eggs and toad in the hole and tried lots of local Scottish cuisine. The sheep shearing competition was impressive as was the young farmer’s tug of war championship. The highlight of the show was the Grand Parade which occurred each day of the show. First, they paraded all of the champion horses through the main ring and then all of the cattle. It was amazing to see so many different breeds in one place! During our time at the Highland Show, we stayed right in Edinburgh so there was lots of time to explore the city as well. Edinburgh is a beautiful city with many old buildings and lots of character. The highlight of my time spent in Edinburgh was a hike to Arthur’s Seat, a popular trail that reaches a summit where you can see the Edinburgh Castle and look out over the city of Edinburgh, lochs and the sea!
Dumfries and Galloway District, Thornhill YFC
My second host in Scotland also lived on a hill farm (1320 feet above sea level). They have 2500 acres, 1000 blackface ewes and a pedigree flock of Blueface Leicesters and approximately 90 beef cows. When I arrived in this area we visited Morton Castle and Loch Ettrick. The next day we had a full day of farm tours, a dairy farm; a Texel sheep farm; and a dairy farm called Cream O’Galloway where they make their own ice cream and cheese (we had lots of samples!). Day 10 involved a tour of Robert Burn’s House; a walk along the sea to a beach called Rockcliffe; and a stock judging night. The next day was quiet. We went to Dumfrie’s House for a picnic and to Wanlockhead, the highest village in Scotland, known for its mineral deposits and history in the mining industry. The following morning I visited Crichton Dairy Research Facility and went kayaking; stand up paddle boarding; and played on inflatable water obstacles in the afternoon. The next day I explored Drumlanrig Castle; toured a Windfarm; and a beef and sheep farm where they were busy shearing the sheep. My last day with the Thornhill Young Farmers, I went to Dundrennan Abbey; the largest dairy farm I have ever seen (milking 1600 holsteins); and watched the World Cup at a pub in town. That night they had planned a beach-themed dance complete with sand!
Fife and Kinross District, West Fife YFC
My final host family Alice and David Thomson and their son Fraser live on a dairy farm near Cowdenbeath. They just installed three GEA robots (a German company) to milk their 120 Holsteins. The first day I was there I went to St. Andrews, a beautiful town on the coast that had many old buildings, a castle and shops. At night we toured a Water Buffalo Farm. It was really interesting and unlike anything I had seen before. They are currently raising the buffalo for meat but they intend to expand into the dairy side and produce Buffalo Mozzarella. The next day I spent some time around my host’s farm, toured a potato farm, hiked at Loch Leven and tried clay pigeon shooting. I started off the next morning with a trip to the Stirling Auction Market to watch the cattle auction, went to the National Wallace Monument for lunch and toured Stirling Castle. At night there was another stock judging competition which was quite well attended and I managed to find some inquisitive Highland Cows on the way home. We were treated to breakfast the next day at Blacketyside, a local farm shop and fruit farm. We had a grand tour of the farm where we picked and taste tested strawberries, raspberries, blackberries and cherries. We also toured a beef and sheep farm and went inside a wind turbine. For dinner we went to Anstruther Fish Bar (the best fish and chips in Scotland) and went for a walk along the Fife Coastal Trail to some caves.
I spent close to three weeks in Scotland making memories that will last a lifetime. I am so thankful to have been given the opportunity to go on exchange and strongly encourage anyone to apply. Traveling with the hosts gave real insights into local life and the great things Scotland has to offer!