The last stretch of the Scottish exchange has been the week of the Royal Agricultural Highland Show. I made it to Edinburgh on the Tuesday and mix with five other exchanges two from Northern Ireland one from Canada and two from Ireland. Paul from the Scottish Young Farmers Association took us on the Johnny Walker whisky experience, which was quite the performance and showed us whisky tasting in a different light to most of the distilleries in Scotland.
On Wednesday we had a day out with two young farmers alumni who had both been on exchanges during their time as young farmers.
We were taken to the attractions of the kelpies which are the world's tallest horse statues standing at 26.5 meters and 30 meters tall. These statues align with Scottish folklore of shapeshifting beasts that would take the form of horses to lure people to ride them, which would lead to a one-way ticket to the bottom of the canals or other waterways.
The impressive structures also pay tribute to the hundreds of Clydesdale horses that were used to call cargo barges during the industrial revolution up the canals. After visiting the kelpies we went to the Falkirk wheel which is a great feat of engineering transporting barges from a low-tier canal to a higher canal 20 meters above.
From Thursday to Sunday it was Highland Show, having been talked up by all of my hosts I was very excited and needless to say not disappointed at all. After four days I thought I would have seen it all and being searching for entertainment, I'm going to need to go back next year to see the parts I missed!
Thursday and Friday were the main days of stock showing and the shearing show circuit, between the livestock sheds, shearing shed and the food hall to get breakfast and lunch from the mass of taste testers, I managed to fill my days very easily. In the evenings a dance was held each night which was a great way to catch up with those I'd met on my travels.
Saturday was the main day for young farmers events with the stock judging and tug of war on. The Golden Shears had started also with a very packed seating, to get a seats for round two of the machine shares I missed the prize giving for the tug of war and the presenting of the stockman of the year. I did get a look around the Clydesdale hall, tree climbing chainsaw carving and some of the machinery also. Finishing the night at the Highland Hoolie an outdoor concert of some fantastic Scottish bands. We didn't make into the dance that night with a few hundred in line and over 2500 people already in there!
Sunday bought the much-anticipated finals of the golden shears wool handling, blade shearing and machine shearing for the teams and individual events.
The atmosphere in the marquee was an exciting buzz in itself with a very strong Welsh presence dominating the crowd. Every seat was filled with crowds outside getting a peak in as well as watching on a big screen out the back. One of my favourite moments was the final in the team blade share where New Zealand and South Africa were sheep for sheep, having shorn 10 sheep (5 each) and 23 minutes, NZ finished only two seconds ahead of SA. It all came down to the points of quality and SA edged their way over the Kiwis, what an amazing final.
The other highlight of course is the individual machine final and prize giving. The emotion and passion shared between winner Gwion Lloyd and his supporters when they erupted into their national anthem was a spectacle in itself, let alone the gruelling yet graceful battle of shearing 20 Cheviot hoggets in 15 minutes. It was a fantastic way to end a spectacular week.
I can't recommend the exchange enough to everyone back home. I am very grateful for the opportunity I've had. My hosts have all been very generous and accommodating, I can't thank them enough for the experiences and doors that have been opened to me for the rest of my travels.
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