DRESSED in lucky shamrock head-wear, Edinburgh University students and friends Mary O'Reilly and Lauren Naismith hitch-hiked their way to Amsterdam without a penny in their pockets, and raised £1,135 for Support in Mind Scotland.

The pair signed up to theis year's Race2Amsterdam challenge as part of the continuing fundraising efforts of Edinburgh RAG (Raising and Giving) - an initiative run by Edinburgh Students Charities Appeal.

And Lauren, from Belfast, and Mary, whose family also hails from Northern Ireland, drew on the luck of the Irish to cover the route in just 34 hours.

Lauren, a second year psychology student, said: "We had our minds set from the outset on supporting a mental health charity, as we both have personal connections, and we wanted to support something local. We did our research and we liked what we read about the work Support in Mind Scotland do, particularly the Stafford Centre.

"While we were hitch-hiking, we were raising awareness of the charity and we were surprised by the number of people we spoke to who had personal connections with mental health issues."

The pair were one of 40 teams to set off from Edinburgh, with the task of covering the 700-mile trip as quickly as possible without spending any money. In the end, they needed 11 hitches, and made it from pillar to post in an impressive 34 hours.

"The hardest part was getting out of Edinburgh," laughed Lauren. "We made it to a petrol station in Musselburgh, then managed to get down the A1. Because we are both Irish, we dressed up in Irish rugby shirts and had shamrocks on our head - so I think that helped on more than one occasion."

The girls saw some of their fellow students on their travels, particularly in Dover, and even managed to get a lift from the French police for one segment of the journey, before they wound their way through Belgium and then into the Netherlands.

"There were times we felt a little tired, but it didn't feel right to sleep," added Lauren, "we felt like we should be chatting away, so that's what we did. When we made it Amsterdam, we stayed a few days and it was great to see everyone else and compare stories about how we had got there."

Lauren and Mary, a second year theology student, are pictured above enjoying a couple of days in Amsterdam after packing away their shamrock hats, while below is a picture of the 40 teams who took part to raise thousands of pounds for good causes.

Colin Leslie, Support in Mind Scotland's Fundraising Manager, said: "We are extremely grateful to Mary and Lauren for choosing to support us in such an adventurous way. It sounds like they had the time of their lives. They can be proud of their efforts not only in completing the challenge but working so hard to raise mental health awareness along the way.

"The fantastic figure of £1,135 they have raised will help us continue to deliver crucial mental health services across Scotland. Our thanks also go to all who supported their fundraising drive."