A sauna event for farmers, run by Farmstrong Scotland, aims to provide a “relaxed atmosphere with a sense of unity”, where farmers can talk about their wellbeing.

The organisation is supported by the Royal Highland and Agricultural Society of Scotland (RHASS), the Movember Foundation and NFU Mutual.

The idea for the event started when East Lothian farmer Stuart McNicol committed to getting in a sauna two to three times/week to help relax his body and mind.

After purchasing a sauna, McNicol was inspired to pilot the event and gained support from his farming community, who came together to enjoy the sauna and learn more about Farmstrong and how to improve their wellbeing.

“Farmers and crofters need people to speak to, it can be a very lonely sector and right now, we are all hacked off by the weather,” he said.

“Serious discussions about what we can realistically grow this season, following this continuous wet weather, are playing on everyone’s mind.”

“For a long-time we have all stayed behind our farm gates and not discussed the challenges that face us, but we are all experiencing the same ups and downs.

“People do want to come together and natter – whether it is about their business, something in their personal life or just to get that reassurance they are not the only ones feeling the way they do.”

The sauna experience

McNicol said, by incorporating a sauna, food and drink into the discussion, farmers feel more relaxed to openly chat about what matters most to them.

“Everyone needs some “me-time” and during Covid this was something people took more notice of, but recently everything has sped up again,” he said.

“People are rushing from one thing to the next, putting every hour into their work but forgetting about their own wellbeing.

“We need to find a better balance and follow the example of Scandinavian countries where they value time out.”

It was these countries that sparked the idea for a sauna, but it was a trip to the Royal Highland Show with his father and his wife, Jo, in 2023 that kicked off the implementation of McNicol’s vision.

“I have been looking at building a sauna for a few years as we get lots of visitors to Drift who value the benefits of exercise from wild swimming in front of the café to walking to see us with their dog,” he said.

“What better way to warm up after a dip or cold walk, than by sitting in a sauna with temperatures of 75°, all while enjoying the Scottish countryside.

“I was walking around the Royal Highland Show last year with my Dad and Jo, and noticed the Sauna Cube. Within 24 hours it was purchased, and plans were in motion,” he said.

‘We want to bring people together’

Whilst there were some sceptics from a few farmers at first, McNicol said he is already getting asked when the next sauna event will take place.

“Just this week I have received a message from a local farmer asking when the next session will take place,” he said.

“We want to ensure we keep the groups small, no more than eight to 12 people, and it’s important that the people attending determine how the session takes place.

“For example, with our pilot event, we split the group into two so some sat and nattered over a drink, while others were in the sauna and then they swapped.”

Going forward, McNicol said it might be that one session is for women and another for men, and then they both come together for food and drink after.

“Likewise, if everyone is comfortable, we could do a mixed gender session to bring in different perspectives and views,” he said.

“It doesn’t matter how it runs, the important thing is farmers and crofters need support and we want to bring people together.”


McNicol aims to use Farmstrong as a catalyst for support for farmers, and is looking to run another pilot sauna event at the end of this month, before starting monthly sessions.

“Farmstrong puts an important spotlight on our wellbeing and gives us the space and encouragement to listen to each other,” he said.

“There are lots of great organisations in Scotland already but there is nothing like Farmstrong, encouraging that relaxed atmosphere with a sense of unity.”

Stuart and Jo McNicol said they are keen to make the events as inclusive as possible with plans to make the sauna available for visitors to book.

They farm 430ac including malting spring barley, winter wheat and spring beans for seed, along with a newly planted orchard of 2,000 fruit trees.

The next sauna farmers session will take place at the end of April at Drift, Quarrel Sands, North Berwick.