Reconnect with nature through Wild Bathing.
In the picturesque landscapes of Connel Argyll on the west coast of Scotland, where the sea meets the mountains, Jo MacLean calls home. Her love for the great outdoors, combined with her unique background, has led her to embark on an inspiring journey to reconnect people with nature through an extraordinary venture known as Wild Bathing.
Jo's journey into the world of Wild
Bathing is rooted in a diverse
background that encompasses forestry,
marine environments, outdoor activities,
and a deep love for the Scottish
Highlands. With 20 years of experience
as a Forest School practitioner, an STA
Level 2 Open Water Safety Leader,
Emergency First Aid certified, and
armed with a Cold Water Therapy
Diploma, Jo is well-equipped to guide
others on a journey of nature immersion
But her journey into the wild didn't start with Wild Bathing. Jo's life has been a thrilling adventure, from working as a surf instructor in Australia to becoming a snowboard instructor in the Scottish Highlands. She's been an outdoor instructor in the Central belt and conducted Forest School sessions across Scotland. Her extensive experience even includes ﬁve years of service on a Loch Lomond rescue boat, earning her a Powerboat Level 2 certiﬁcation.
Yet, amidst all these adventures, Jo's heart found a home on a Scottish croft where she cares for Hebridean sheep, hens, and horses. This rural lifestyle provides her with a deep connection to the natural world, a connection that has greatly inﬂuenced her passion for wild bathing and her commitment to sharing it with others.
As Jo describes it, "We cut our own ﬁrewood and bake our own bread and make cakes with our
own eggs, etc. Wild Bathing oﬀers access to a unique and cultural way of life focused on animals and hugs!" It's a way of life that she invites others to experience when they visit her croft, where
guests can connect with native animals and learn about the workings of a traditional Scottish
The heart of Jo's venture, Wild Bathing, oﬃcially launched in August 2023 in collaboration with her friend and professional photographer, Lauren Fair. Together, they oﬀer wild dip experiences and opportunities for people to immerse themselves in the natural wonders of their local playground.
1: Your background in forestry, marine environments, and outdoor activities is quite diverse.How did these experiences lead you to launch Wild Bathing, and what role do they play in the unique experiences of Wild Bathing?
JO:I was working in an oﬃce wearing a suit and it didn"t feel natural sitting in traﬃc jams pounding the concrete sidewalks at lunchtime shopping for nothing in particular, so I gave it all up and went traveling around the world. It opened my eyes to the fun I could have but also a career in the outdoors, as I did a summer working for a surf school in Byron Bay, Australia.
I came home, worked in TV for a few years, then chucked it all in to go volunteer in outdoor jobs such as Loch Lomond water-based ranger service and just threw myself into courses like my kayak 2-star and did some snowboarding instructor training.
This led into a job with forestry, and now all these outdoor experiences and moving to the sea have made me realize I have the skills, knowledge, and experience of my local area to inspire people to use their local beaches and forest to ﬁnd peace and good health, especially as we have all changed since lockdown. Wild bathing is so varied that all my experiences will be an opportunity to try for the wild bathers.
There is an inspirational story about me and this photo. This made me start wild bathing. Phoebe had an accident and was injured, so I started sea water therapy to help her recover. It was amazing to see her so alive and happy in the sea. Unfortunately, she had a fracture which was inoperable, and she was put to sleep. She was an inspiration and taught me that you never give up.
2. Living on a Scottish croft and taking care of Hebridean sheep, hens, and horses must provide a deep connection to nature. How has this rural lifestyle inﬂuenced your passion for wild bathing and your commitment to sharing it with others?
JO:Having a wee cabin built in the ﬁeld after lockdown brought lots of international travelers. They went bananas over the sheep and hens, and some helped lamb! We're so relaxed that folks at our croft get to meet and hold and literally bathe with the animals. So, I thought, "Hmm, I bet folks would LOVE to come to the croft and spend time connecting and just having fun meeting the native animals and learning how a Scottish croft works." For example, we cut our own ﬁrewood and bake our own bread and make cakes with our own eggs, etc. Wild Bathing oﬀers access to a unique and cultural way of life focused on animals and hugs!
3. Wild Bathing oﬀers various forms of immersion in nature, including forest bathing, mud baths, and seaweed baths. Can you share a memorable experience or transformational moment that you had during one of these unconventional nature experiences?
JO:Yes, the kids were playing down by the burn (creek) this summer and disappeared for twenty minutes, only to come back giggling from their bellies, having had such a good time at their new mud bath. Here is the photo attached. It made me think adults need to release more, and nature oﬀers us the tools; we just don"t see them all the time. Who needs to pay lots of dollars for a posh spa when you can have one in nature?
4. You mentioned that Wild Bathing is about building conﬁdence in nature's wild elements. Could you share a bit more about the psychological and physical beneﬁts of cold water therapy and how it helps people connect with nature on a deeper level?
JO:Cold water research is in its early days, and there just isn"t enough scientiﬁc evidence-based results. However, the beneﬁts are being celebrated by people anyway, with the help of Wim Hof and lockdown making people swim outdoors more. The buzz that comes with a post-swim is something you cannot purchase. You feel alive, tingly, reset, happy, and no matter how bad you feel mentally or physically before a swim, you always feel better afterward. It gets the blood pumping back into the peripheral vessels, clearing and refreshing valuable oxygen-rich nutrients and hormones. From personal experience, it has helped me overcome post-viral fatigue from what I think was Lyme disease, and I am a carer for my mom and daughter, so it gives me respite mentally and has saved me so many times from spiraling into fed-up moods.
Not to mention the tribe I have found who share the love of the wild and a hot cuppa after a swim. We are warriors of the sea. So physically, it cools inﬂammation in muscles which can be the cause of many ailments, it boosts your immune system through the rush of hormones to the brain, and works with the body's natural circadian rhythms. Also, just stepping into cold water is a challenge and must be respected. Always go with a guide if it's your ﬁrst time, who knows the location and stay within your limits, exiting well before you get really cold. Check with the doctor ﬁrst if you have any medical conditions to see if you are ﬁt for cold water exposure. Take it slow and easy. Cold water grounds you, humbles you, takes your mind, body, and soul to the edge. It clears any boring day away as you take on a risky primeval activity, and it also stimulates the mammalian dive response, which we all have. The science behind it is incredible; we have nostril receptors that are stimulated upon exposure to cold water and then send signals to the brain and nervous system to take action. I love all this; it beats the norm of technology and daily life. Get out of your comfort zone; it makes you feel alive.
5. Could you share your story with Anifurry?
JO:Anifurry's approach aligns perfectly with my vision for Wild Bathing. It's about reconnecting people with the nature. I bought an Anifurry blanket for my big birthday and loved it so much that I wanted to collaborate with the company to showcase these amazing products in the Scottish outdoors. I've climbed mountains, been on tall sailing ships, ridden horses, and visited beaches with the blankets, all of which are soooo cosy.
6. If you could take a wild bath anywhere in the world, where would it be, and what makes that location special to you?
JO:I'd take a wild bath on a west coast island like Tiree or Arran, where the water is Hebridean blue. Nature immerses me, and I feel I've escaped from the mainland. There is also a secret location I've yet to bathe in, but it's a mud bath on a small island.
7. Is there a particular piece of advice or mantra related to nature that you live by and would like to share with our readers?
JO:My mantra is "Skid into that coﬃn. Yesterday is history, tomorrow a mystery, today a gift. That's why we call it being present." My life is chaotic and crazy with commitments, looking after kids, family, seeing friends, working, running a cabin and a croft, being an artist, having a herd of horses, and occasionally playing guitar. I had one choice when I was post-virally bedridden twenty years ago: Stay and get worse or grab life, get your head into warrior mode, and ride that horse into the battleﬁeld of the beautiful life we have to enjoy.
As our conversation with Jo MacLean comes to a close, we're left with a deeper understanding of the transformative power of Wild Bathing. Jo's life is a whirlwind of commitments, but she's made a conscious choice to embrace every moment of this beautiful life. For those seeking to connect with nature, ﬁnd strength, and discover the transformative power of the great outdoors, Jo
MacLean's Wild Bathing oﬀers an open invitation. It's an opportunity to break free from the
ordinary, take that ﬁrst step into the wild, and join a tribe of fellow nature enthusiasts.
In the world of Wild Bathing, the sea beckons, the forests whisper, and the ﬁre pits crackle with stories waiting to be shared. Will you answer the call and embark on your own wild bathing adventure?
To learn more about Jo MacLean and Wild Bathing, visit their website at [www.wildbathing.co.uk] and follow them on Instagram @wildbathingscotland, @ljfphotography.co.uk