If going on holiday is about unwinding and letting yourself go, what could be more relaxing than letting it all hang out at the seaside?
Once a very secretive activity pursued in private grounds or on secluded beaches, nudist bathing is now enjoying popularity as never before.
And those choosing to swap swimming trunks for their birthday suit are an increasingly diverse mix of travellers, from young couples to the elderly and even families.
Britons in particular have shed their traditionally prudish reputation and have taken up the pursuit in droves. In fact, according to Nick Mayhew-Smith, co-author of nudism guide Bare Britain, roughly 10 million Brits have gone skinny-dipping, and more than five million of us have sunbathed in the nude. However, he adds: "It's not as if we're all becoming committed naturists. Far from it - in fact, a lot of the people going to nude beaches now would never consider themselves naturists and are just doing something that feels nice and is a bit of fun."
A combination of more people going on holiday and more nudist facilities being available has led to a veritable explosion of tourists baring all at the beach. Where there's a big growth in beach use there's also going to be a big growth in nude beach use. "It's all part of the same trend," Nick asserts. "People on ordinary beaches are pretty close to naked and the naturist beaches are just the most complete way to get sea and sun on your skin."
Some countries also actively encourage the trend. For example, France claims 1.5 million visitors each year simply because of the naturist facilities available. And Spain and its islands, where nude bathing was totally banned 30 years ago, boasts 700 beaches now used just for that purpose. However, not all of Europe is so accommodating for those seeking an all-over tan. Countries such as Portugal, Greece and Italy tend to tolerate rather than embrace the activity, while hitting Irish beaches in the buff could even land you behind bars...Read More