Scotland the Brave

Although I’ve been home a few days, I thought I better finish off this last update.

July 29th

Today was our bus transfer from RAF Cranwell to Queen Victoria School, a private boarding school for military children located in Dunblane, Scotland.

We spent the whole day on the bus.   Scenery was nice but a lot of people slept most of the day.

I am really looking forward to my time in Scotland.   We know the legends of Loch Ness, The history of people like William Wallace, Robert the Bruce, Rob Roy, Mary Queen of Scots and so many more.   When I was in Scotland in 2010, it was not enough time for what was then the highlight of my trip with only two days spent in Edinburgh.   This time I am excited to experience more of this country, and to learn more about the history there in.

I am a little sad that we are not going north enough for loch ness, but we do get to boat on a loch.

One thing I’ve noticed, is I know a lot about animals in different countries.   I talked to the Australians about the Tasmania Devil, I was glad that they did know about Devil Facial Tumor Disease, which is decimating the population.   I talked to New Zealanders about Canadian Moose in the far south of New Zealand, they knew nothing about them.   Just like the Scottish who knew nothing about the Beavers that had been re-introduced into Scotland in Knapdale Forrest.   After 400 years of Beavers being extirpated from Scotland, they were reintroduced in 2009, and it is being considered an ecological victory and success.   The Beavers are thriving, and I’ll have to plan another trip back to see them as we are going nowhere near the re-introduction site.

Many Scotts that I talked to did know about the discussed re-introduction of lynx on the Scotland/England boarder that is being greatly discussed.   It’ll be interesting to see what happens there and if the people who are concerned about the loss of sheep get their way or if the ecologists get theirs.

July 30th

Today was not the day any of us expected.

The group was split in half.   One group was to go Radio Control Flying at RAF Leuchars.   A few members of the group did in fact get to operate a Radio Control plane, but for most it was watching.   A great amount of time was spent in the control tower on a tour which some did not enjoy or found repetitive of past tours they did.

Myself and the rest of the Canadians were to go to Tayside Aviation for flights in their Piper PA-28 Warrior’s.  However, due to some mix up and confusions, the cadets got tours of their facilities, got to meet some cadets from across the UK who are on a power scholarship and got to spend some time in the flight simulator.   The cadets made the best out of what could have been a disappointing visit.

Tayside is where all power scholarship air cadets from across the UK train.   I still find it hard to believe that their training is one week, just like gliding and the other training camps offered through the summer.   In that one week on power, the cadets are allowed to use no more then 12 hours of flight.   If in that 12 hours they get to solo then they earn their wings.   The people I was talking with mentioned that they are getting less and less cadets soloing, and are wondering if the selection process is as thorough as it needs to be.   I believe that the cadets also pay part of the cost to come and train at Tayside.   The Royal Canadian Air Cadets who partake in glider and power scholarships have no idea how lucky they are compared to the programs in other countries.

The highlight of the day for everyone was our free time in St. Andrew’s; home of Golf.    It is however so much more.

I started at the Cathedral, which is no longer a Cathedral.   It was decimated between 1559 and 1561 during the Scottish Reformation as was the Castle which I visited next.

From here I continued to walk along the shore side, stopping in a few churches, taking some pics, talking with some Canadians and other travelers, and eventually made my way to the Golf Course, or should I say Golf Courses.   There are 7 Golf Courses at St Andrew’s Links, which all intertwine around the Old Course which was established in 1552.   It is crazy how many people were out golfing and how many other golf courses are in the area.   I did not putt or strike a ball, but I had fun looking out on the course.

Mom, Dad and I love playing Tiger Woods PGA Tour 2003 on Game Cube, we’ve tried the newer ones, we’ve tried it on wii, but nothing is quite as good as the 2003 game cube version.   I was so excited to see and take pictures of some of the water hazards that my Dad always seems to go into.

From here I did have to walk the beach and get me feet wet in the North Sea of the North Atlantic.   Funny, only weeks ago I went for a swim on the west cost of the Atlantic, and now I’m in the same ocean but on the other side of the pond, experiencing the east cost.   It is hard to believe that some of the Canadian travelers live on the same body of water.

I did manage to take my favourite pic of the trip, a bee and a thistle, two of my favourite things to photograph, in a country known and represented by thistles.

That night we did a guided tour of the town we were staying in; Dunblane.   It is a quaint little village that I think I could get used to.   By the sounds of it, many people are trying to make this city home as there have built more houses then their infrastructure can handle.  It is a picturesque town and I had a good little hike through the town and then the surrounding country side.

During the 2012 olympics, any athlete to win a gold medal had a mailbox painted gold in their home town.   I did see a few of these, including this one for Andy Murray a tennis player.

 July 31st

None of us knew what to expect of today.   We were told we were going to The Kelpies (a big sculpture of some horses), and to the Falkirk Wheel (a marvel in the lock system of moving boats).   It did not sound too exciting, which is why we were all amazed upon arriving at these sites.

As we approached the Kelpies you could see these massive horse head sculptures of stainless steel metal rearing up out of the landscape.   As we got closer our curiosity peaked.   Why, why here, what is the significance of horses, why so big, why so shiny and the questions went on.   The guided tour was excellent at answering these and many more questions.

Since getting more involved with the art community at DHS and in Dryden, I have a new found appreciation for art.  Both the amount of research that the artist who created the Kelpies (Andy Scott) conducted, and the work itself is phenominal.   He truly is an artistic visionary and many people will be talking about him and this piece of work for centuries to come.   We had a lot of fun walking about, hearing these stories based on ancient myth, stories of these sculptures honouring work beasts that formed this land, and of course their sculpture Andy Scott gave us the opportunity to find new respect for something we all wanted to pass off.   It also gave us the opportunity for some interesting pics.

Next stop was indeed the Falkirk Wheel.   This is pure ingenuity, that will drop your jaw as you stare in awe at this boat lift that opened in 2002 and replaces a series of 11 locks.   The lock system and canals were ignored starting in the 1930s and were left, and sunk into despair. In the 1990’s there was discussion about revitalizing the canal system, and this meant also repairing the locks or finding another way to move boats across the 35 m or 115 ft difference in elevation between the two canals.   The answer of course was the Falkirk Wheel.   It was fun to go on a slow canal ride and experience going up and down the wheel.   We also had some free time, which meant me taking off into the country side for a little exploration.

The rest of the day was some free time in Stirling for shopping and a sports night with Local Cadets. We enjoyed both activities, especially the sports. Meeting new people and getting a little fitness in (which has been lacking) was welcomed.

August 1st

Today we are off to Edinburgh.

Our day started at Leonardo which used to be known as Selex Se.   This engineering defense company specializes in Radar and Lazers designing and manufacturing their products for a large line of aircrafts.   Although a lot of what we were talking about was over my head, and my physics friends would have been drooling, they did a good job of giving us enough on education to understand what it is they do.

I never thought of Scotland as a place of ingenuity but after yesterday, and now our stop at Leonardo, Scottish ingenuity is something I’ll always respect.   These people are geniuses who think outside the box, and are always looking for new ways to solve old problems.    And I think this ingenuity captures the past, present, and future of Scotland.

From here we hiked up into Holyrood Park, which was fun but too short.   Many of the cadets set their sites on peaks even further away, even higher, but we did not have the time to climb them.

We took a tour of the Scottish Parliament.   This is perhaps one of the world’s newest parliaments but is steeped with a long of history.   Again I was amazed with the artistry of the building, mainly its architecture but also more, as well as the ingenuity of how it came together.   The Parliament was re-established in May of 1999 but has it’s roots dating back to 1235.   In 1707 the parliament was disbanded and would lay dormant until 1999.   The building itself officially opened in 2004 and is beautiful.

The building truly is a harmonious marriage between old and new.   Its symbology, and new age architecture is intricately intertwined with a strong and old tradition going back to the Kings and Queens of yore who ruled democratically with the people, for the people.   The main concept which is reverberated through the building is the idea that this is a people’s government, and thus should be open to the people.  The Members of the Scottish Parliament (MSPs) are constantly reminded through the symbolism that they are here for the people and were selected by the people.   It was really neat to compare this building with the Parliaments we toured in Ottawa and London.

We had some free time in Edinburgh, which some choose to shop, but I was itching to get a preview of the Edinburgh Fringe Festival which opens in 5 days.   The streets were buzzing with posters, performers.   I did pick up a program and some swag, before watching a Canadian Street Preformer; Daniel Zindler.   I found his show a little annoying his humor was definitely very Brittish, which I think is why this is his 7th Edinburgh Fringe.

The Edinburgh Fringe Festival is the oldest Fringe, and the Biggest.  This is the holy site of Fringe Festivals in 2015 the festival spanned 25 days and featured 50,459 performances of 3,314 shows in 313 venues.   Next year, it turns 70 years old, to think it would have started just after WWII ended is incredible.

August 2nd

Our last real day in Scotland as we leave to go home early tomorrow morning.

Our day started at Stirling Castle.  Although the castle itself is old, the interior is a complete reproduction.   The first records of the Castle itself date back to around 1110 AD, however, in the 1600’s it was taken over by the military and used as offices, training grounds and barracks.   It was used as a military base until 1964 and restoration started in 1991 when Historic Scotland took over guardianship of the Castle.   Employing crafts people in the ancient forms the castle has been restored to it’s renaissance beauty.   It was weird being in an old castle that felt so new.   With bright vibrant colours, it almost felt cartoon like, but we are told that this would have been the grandeur of times past, and it is the modern patina and wear that gives what we currently think of renaissance as being.   I really enjoyed first learning about the reproduction of an ancient piece of tapestry, called The Hunt of The Unicorn.   The research and work that went into reproducing this tapestry was incredible.   But then I stumbled upon the reproduction and it was truly stunning.   I don’t think most people who see the tapestry realize just what it took to make that reproduction.

From here we had a bus ride up to Loch Katrine in the Scottish Highlands.   This was going to be a highlight for me.   We did get some free time which I took to hike the lake shore, before we boarded the Steamship Sir Walter Scott.   It was truly stunning and beautiful, and in true summer Scottish weather we got some rain, and mist.   What a great last adventure in this country.

Our trip to Scotland ended with a traditional Farewell Ceilidh.   None of us knew what this was, nor what to expect.   We were told though that it was going to involve some dancing.   Ceilidh means ‘a gathering’ in Gaelic.  Our Ceilidh band consisted of two accordions a keyboard and a drum.   We had a lot of fun learning and dancing these ‘line dance-esq’ dances.   One dance which was a bit of a work out was called the Canadian Barn Dance, it is said one dance in a barn is better than 10 dances in a great hall, if that is the case, then Scotland is the barn of the UK and we had a blast in our barn dance.

I know the memories of this trip will live on for many years to come for the Cadets, the other exchange members and staff, and myself.   I am honoured to have been selected and to participate in the International Air Cadet Exchange 2016, and to spend the last couple weeks getting to know these young people from 14 different countries.   Special thanks need to go to the International Air Cadet Exchange Association, the Air Cadet League of Canada, the Ministry of National Defence and the Canadian Cadet Organization, as well to all who participated but most importantly to the organizing committee in the UK and the teams in London, RAF Cranwell and Scotland.   Thanks.


That’s it for now, next trip is Montreal with Cole.






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