The Scottish Outdoor Club, which is based on Loch Lomond’s Inchmurrin Island, has provided a haven for hardy nudists since the 1940s. However, numbers have more than halved in recent years and officials admit they could be forced to throw in the towel if they cannot find new recruits.
A membership drive is now being launched in an attempt to reverse the club’s ailing fortunes. The loch’s naturist resort is usually strictly off-limits to non-members, but the club is preparing to host “Come and Try” days, where visitors can experience a guided tour and an introduction to the clothes-free lifestyle.
The club secretary, who requested to remain anonymous, admitted there were now serious doubts over the future of the 11-acre site. He said: “Sadly, membership is declining and we really need some new people to come along. We are only just hanging on as a club.
“There could come a point, if there are not enough of us to cover the rent, when we will have to reconsider our position. The club has been around for a long time and it would be very disappointing if it went.”
The official conceded the club has so far failed to attract younger naturists. He said: “Twenty years ago we had around 80 members, but that has fallen to less than 30 now. We are mainly over-50s, which is one of our problems.
“Our youngest member is mid-30s while our oldest members are in their late 70s. We had a couple of over-80s, but they have moved on.”
Younger naturists are far less keen to expose themselves to the uncertainties of the Caledonian climate, he added.
“The advent of cheap flights has really impacted on our numbers. People are able to go to naturist venues abroad and be guaranteed much better weather than we have here.”
However, prospective new recruits can look forward to a traditional Scottish welcome if they attend the open days, which will take place on May 6 and June 3.
The club secretary said: “We will have tea and scones waiting for them when they arrive. They will get a tour and a chance to see what the club is like and what we have to offer.If it’s a really nice day we will have a barbecue.”
The club website states the “Come and Try” days will allow newcomers to: “Experience the tranquillity and security of practising naturism on a site reserved solely for that purpose, without the hassle of non-naturist onlookers. The setting and the scenery have to be seen to be believed.”
Founded on Fenwick Moor, near Glasgow, in 1938, the club, which has annual membership fee of £150 per person, moved to its current base on Loch Lomond a decade later.
Naturists claim their way of life continues to be surrounded by misinformed stereotypes. The club spokesman said: “Sadly in this country, there is often a sniggering attitude towards naturism. We are not swingers, and naturism is nothing to do with sex. It is all about relaxing and enjoying nature and good company.”
Andrew Welch, of British Naturism, which has a membership of more than 10,000, claimed broader cultural changes were having an impact on clubs.
He said: “People are now much less likely to join things than they used to be, particularly if there is some sort of commitment required. Not everybody wants that level of commitment, but that’s not to say that some clubs aren’t attracting new members.”
He claimed the Scottish Outdoor Club’s remote location may also have played a part in its declining popularity.
He said: “Because of where it is, and because you have to arrive by boat, it takes quite a lot of time, effort and planning to get there.”
There is a second, smaller, naturist resort called Sunnybroom in the woodlands of Aberdeenshire, which has membership of around 20, while Cleat’s Shore on Arran is Scotland’s only officially designated nudist beach.
Dr Tuppy Owens, an author who has written about public nudity issues, claimed traditional naturist camps were increasingly regarded as remnants from a bygone era.
He said: “The very mention of them conjures up images from Carry on Camping. Young people, quite naturally, want to be with other young people, and the idea of joining old-fashioned clubs, with their rules and committees, is not an appealing one. If they want to go naked they are much more likely to head off to a beach with their friends.”