Kaitlyn Martin from Ballywalter YFC recently took part in an exchange to Scotland. This is a report of her experiences:
“On 8th June I began my Scottish Exchange travelling from Belfast to Edinburgh with Geoffrey Crozier (Collone YFC). We met with Penny Montgomery; chief executive of the SAYFC at airport arrivals who welcomed us to Scotland, introduced us to Grace; the exchangee from New Zealand and provided us with a map of how to get from the tram to our hostel that we would be staying in for the next couple of nights.
“After settling into our rooms we went down to the hostel bar and met the eight other exchanges that would be experiencing Scotland with us! That evening we all went out to a restaurant along the Royal Mile followed by a few drinks to get to know each other better.
“Our second day involved a visit to Craigie’s Farm which grew strawberries, raspberries, cherries and pumpkins. We had lunch in the Farm Shop Café which had an incredible view of rural Scotland and then we travelled into Edinburgh again for a guided tour of the Scottish Parliament. The weather was amazing so of course we couldn’t say no to an ice cream while sitting out in the sun in our free time.
“That evening we got all dolled up and headed to the Overseas Club Restaurant on Princes Street, where we were wined and dined with the generous sponsors for the exchanges, SAYFC staff, chairman Scott Wilson, guests and members of the SAYFC. After the gorgeous meal, all of the exchanges got the opportunity to learn to ceilidh-and the Scots don’t take no for an answer.
“I thoroughly enjoyed the dance and was very glad to have worn low heels as you never knew where or who you were going to get thrown to next for a dance.
“After minimal hours sleep from the night before our third day began with an early start to meet the Young Farmers Ambassador’s (YFA’s) who were taking us out for the day.
“After managing to get all the exchangees’ luggage into the mini bus as well as ourselves we said goodbye to Edinburgh.
“We payed a visit to the Kelpies, the Falkirk Wheel and the Transport Museum in Glasgow before heading to meet our host families at a dinner kindly paid for by the Ayrshire District.
“Unfortunately my host family could not make the dinner as they were at grass-no surprise to anyone from Northern Ireland, Louise Evans (Wales YFC) and I were staying with a club called New Cumnock and we were dropped off to our host families by New Cumnock club members; Robin Condie and Rhona Laird. I was staying with the Bruce family; Margaret and William and their three sons; William, Andrew and David.
“The next day Louise and I went with club members Hannah and Sophie on a trip to the Isle of Cumbrae, also known as Millport where we met the other exchanges and their hosts for a bike ride around the island.
“Anyone who knows me is aware that I am not very energetic so I was dreading the 11 mile cycle around the island but thankfully the cycle didn’t feel as long, as the scenery was amazing and the sun was shining.
“After taking the ferry off the island the girls told us that a trip to Largs is not a proper trip if you don’t get an ice cream from Nardini’s and they were certainly right.
“That evening I had dinner with my host family and then David gave me a tour of their dairy farm before the whole family joined Margaret and I to watch the New Cumnock Concert DVD which was very entertaining.
“On Friday my host David, Louise, her host Laura and I met with the rest of the exchangees’ and their hosts for a farm tour day. A visit was paid to Brownhill Farm; a large dairy farm with a 200 cow herd with everything from the parlour to the calving pens all under one shed roof.
“We then visited Laura’s uncle’s farm; Towerhill where we got an explanation on how a robotic dairy unit was run.
“Our final farm visit of the day was to Charmerston which had over 16,000 free range chickens where we were given a great explanation to the yearly calendar of a chicken farmer. That evening was Mauchline YFC’s Treasure Hunt so with a car load of brainboxes we set off around Ayrshire before returning to hear the results…and let’s just say we were very glad to hear that we didn’t come last.
“On Saturday we got to experience a local show in the Ayrshire District; Straitton Show and it is quite different to our shows at home and a lot smaller but that didn’t mean that the craic was any smaller.
“That night William, David and I headed into New Cumnock to meet even more club members for a meal and then returned home where I got to meet the boy’s aunt and uncle before retiring for the night as the exchangees’ were heading away very early the next day.
“The first week was nicely finished off with a trip into the Stirling area for stock judging with those who would be competing at the Royal Highland Show. Scottish stock judging is very similar to home except they judge various breeds of the animals and have a time limit on how long they have to give reasons – I didn’t struggle with the accent until I tried to listen to members give their reasons.
“With the SAYFC members having a competition against each other that day they didn’t want to leave the exchangees’ out so we had our own competition. The results were given out in The Kilted Kangaroo in Stirling where we had a meal and a few drinks and I was placed third so I was over the moon.
“My last few days with the Bruce family involved a Highland Cow art class, a walk around Dumfries House with New Cumnock members and a Robert Burns site seeing day with my host mother Margaret, Laura and her host mother.
“I loved living with the Bruce family and was very sad to be saying goodbye to them to begin the next part of my Scottish exchange but I will hopefully be seeing them again in September when my club; Ballywalter will be having an exchange with Mauchline. I learned a lot about their family, how they live and how the SAYFC is ran compared to the YFCU.
“Wednesday began our adventure back to Edinburgh and an afternoon spent at Edinburgh Zoo to see the famous pandas. That evening we had our last exchangee family dinner before the madness of the RHS began.
“Those from Northern Ireland know that when the Highland Show is on the majority of Northern Ireland moves to Edinburgh for the weekend so it was brilliant to have both familiar faces and new faces to speak to at the show this year. The Highland Show did not disappoint and neither did the night life in Edinburgh.
“Suddenly our final day had come upon us…it seemed like just yesterday that I had been introduced to the rest of the exchangees’.
“We became a family over our two weeks together and sadly it was time to say goodbye but not forever as we had already planned to meet up again.
“I would like to thank the YFCU and SAYFC for this incredible opportunity as well as my own club; Ballywalter YFC for their support. I highly recommend any YFCU member to grab the opportunity of an exchange as it is an experience of a lifetime.”
r You can view more photographs from Kaityln’s trip on www.farminglife.com