Would you Adam and Eve it?



“The Herald” Article

Friday 9th January  2004


BE honest. Where in the world would you most likely get the urge to strip off your vest and bare all – and we mean all? Golden Florida sands? The heat-cracked landscape of Greece? What about windswept Aberdeenshire? Bizarrely the Scottish option is becoming a popular choice as reports of our beautiful, but usually chilly, land filter through to the nudists on tour.

Scotland's naturist resorts are reporting a brisk interest and are expecting more foreign visitors as summer 2004 approaches. The picturesque Inchmurrin club at Loch Lomond had an influx of Dutch and German holidaymakers last year. Parties of Australians also arrived possibly bored with tackling sharks and crocodiles, and psyched-up instead to conquer the midge while armed only with flip-flops.
Despite all the evidence to the contrary, enthusiasts claim Scotland is the perfect place for naturist breaks. Brian Letford, a long-time naturist and secretary of the Scottish Outdoor Club, says: "It's not a surprise that our holidays are doing so well. The scenery in Scotland is stunning and we have walks and outdoor activities to offer people who happen to be naturists. The remote locations of some of our most beautiful places make them ideal. We have had enquiries from all over England and Ireland as well as abroad about the facilities at Inchmurrin."

It seems that naked Scotland has never featured so much in the headlines. A recent STV documentary, Wearing The One Button Suit, explored nudist etiquette and took us on a bracing ramble in Perthshire where hardy enthusiasts took dips in icy loch water.

The Sunnybroom naturist club in Aberdeenshire has up to 20 members and has been running for almost 40 years. Members recently called for one of Scotland's coldest stretches of coastline to be designated a nudist beach. It's brisk, even in the summer.

A Scottish laird has also voiced plans to open a nudist beach on his land in Loth, Sutherland. Michael Dudgeon said: "A proper nudist beach will be a boost to tourism in this area and, let's face it, the country needs all the visitors it can get, clothed or unclothed."

This week nudity became a political issue when the infamous naked rambler, Stephen Gough, told his trial at Dingwall Sheriff Court that as he strode up the main street of Evanton, Easter Ross, wearing just his boots and rucksack, a bus-load of elderly women waved at him. It wasn't enough to convince Sheriff Edward Savage, and he was given a three-month jail sentence. Gough's trip is a protest against what he sees as antiquated laws towards nakedness.

However, many Scots naturists see him as doing their cause more harm than good. "The fellow is just starting to irritate the public now," says Letford. "Nurturing a healthy respect between nudists and those who prefer to wear clothes (nicknamed textiles) is a better way forward. We are no different from other holidaymakers, we just choose not to wear clothes when the circumstances and place are suitable. The people visiting Inchmurrin comprise of British residents and foreign visitors and are of all ages and backgrounds."

Letford, who works in the health care industry and is in his early forties, has been a naturist for more than 20 years, as has his girlfriend. He says: "While foreign beach holidays are fantastic Scotland offers something unique. The internet has been key to the boost in naturist holidays."
What about the chill winds and the midges? "It's not in the least offputting. Use midge repellent if need be and we can still pull on a scarf and wellingtons in the colder months. There are no rules saying anyone should freeze. The Scottish summers are getting warmer anyway."

Although the idea of nude holidays is new, naturism is a pastime more than 100 years old and has as many definitions as there are naturists. The International Naturist Federation, which represents millions of naturists around the world, including all members of British Naturism, describes it as: "A way of life in harmony with nature characterised by the practice of communal nudity, with the intention of encouraging self-respect, respect for others and for the environment."

Margaret Denny, 66, a retired legal secretary, is Scottish regional spokeswoman for the British Naturism organisation. She and her husband have been naturists for 40 years. She accepts going nude on holiday is for most a horrifying prospect.

"When you take the plunge it is actually incredibly liberating," she assures. "We all have lumps and bumps in the wrong places and worry about them. As naturists, no-one is judging how you look. It's about being truly yourself in the most relaxed of circumstances.

"Taking off your clothes not only gives you physical freedom, but mental freedom too. I love to potter around my caravan then sit in the sun. The weather in Scotland wouldn't bother dedicated naturists as we're a pretty robust bunch."

She says that people joining clubs are vetted to make sure no undesirables slip through the net. "You get an instinct for who has come along for the wrong reasons," she adds. "In all my years it's only happened a couple of times and the person has been asked to leave. Naturism is wonderful and a great leveller. When you meet a new person it's common to judge them by their clothes. When a group of naturists meet up there are no false preconceptions."

VisitScotland admit the popularity of naturist breaks has taken them by surprise as they do not monitor these holidays. A spokeswoman says: "Scotland offers a spectrum of holiday experiences. VisitScotland welcomes any sector of the tourism market that benefits the country's economy, provided the visitor's activity is within the law and is carried out sensitively in designated areas."

As Brian Letford prepares to head to Loch Lomond for his regular weekend visit, he points out some of the hidden pleasures of naked holidaying. "A lot of tourists head for the quiet of the Scottish countryside after first plucking up the courage to go naked abroad which doesn't seem quite such a big step." He laughs: "The best part of being a nude tourist, of course, is the incredible lightness of our suitcases."
Our guide to naked holidays in Scotland
Scottish beaches used by naturists include: Aberlady, East Lothian; Ardeer, North Ayrshire; Balmedie, Aberdeenshire; Cape Wrath, Sutherland; Kinshaldy Beach, Tentsmuir Forest, Fife; Ross Sands and Tyninghame, East Lothian.
There are seven naturist clubs in Scotland. You can find out more about them at www.british-naturism.org.uk
Two clubs, Inchmurrin and Aberdeenshire's Sunnybroom are offering facilities such as camping. (Some chalets owned by members are for holidays too.)
The Scottish Outdoor Naturist Club is based on Inchmurrin, a small island in Loch Lomond. Access is by passenger ferry boat and a steep path. The facilities include a house with two bedrooms which can sleep up to eight people, a fully-equipped kitchen and a lounge with a log fire. There are three toilets and three showers. There is a sauna which can hold up to a dozen people at a time. There is also a big hut for social occasions, which are usually held every month, and a barbecue area which is used in fine weather.
There is a beach at the jetty. E-mail: secretary@scotnaturist.freeservers.com
Sunnybroom is a members' club founded in 1964. It owns the site of a former Aberdeenshire croft, the cottage of which has been converted to provide an open-plan clubhouse. A stove is installed at one end and a kitchen at the other. The loft can be used as a sleeping area for visitors.
The land surrounding the club is owned by the Forestry Commission and over the last two years all of
the trees to the south have been felled which has left the site a little more exposed to the weather but visitors say their privacy is unaffected! Walks are possible through the forest, which is habitat to deer and other wildlife. Contact them at sunnybroom@hotmail.com
In Dumfriesshire there is the St Brides Naturist Bed and Breakfast for those interested in short breaks. See www.stbridesbandb.co.uk