Topless sunbathers enjoy hot spell at Royal Botanic Gardens

IT has long been known as a haven for bird watchers, but now it seems the Royal Botanic Garden are attracting birds of a different feather.

It seems the recent balmy weather has not only brought the flowers into bloom, but has also encouraged more than a few brave souls – male and female – to indulge in a spot of topless sunbathing. And according to one member of staff, while their activities have not yet led to any complaints from the public, they have proved something of a distraction for the park rangers.

The topless sunbathers have appeared over recent days thanks to the weekend sunshine. While it might seem strange that such a thing could happen in a major public park, staff insisted there are enough secluded spots for the bare bathers to remain well hidden.

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Alan Bennell, head of visitor services at the Botanics, said several women had been taking advantage of the sunshine recently to work on their tans.

He said they did not mind people sunbathing topless, although admitted they could be distracting for some of the staff.

"You can tell it's the start of summer because we've had our first suite of sunbathers," He said: "This is one of the distractions of working here. It's a joyous place for topless sunbathing, as there are lots of secluded spots."

Yesterday, on a hot bank holiday Monday, the garden was packed with visitors taking advantage of the good weather. But while there was plenty of flesh on display, the crowds ensured even the most daredevil sunbathers kept themselves relatively decent.

One park ranger, who asked not to be named, admitted there had been a few incidents of topless sunbathing reported by staff, but insisted it was not causing anyone there a problem.

He said: "I haven't seen any of it myself, but I have heard of a few cases from other rangers here, and it definitely does go on.

"It is only a few cases though, and they are not being flagrant about it in any way.

"They stick to the very secluded spots in the garden and are very discreet, so I don't really think it's a problem."

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Technically there is no law against public nudity, although if a complaint is made to the police they can prosecute people for causing "alarm or distress", as was the case with naked rambler Stephen Gough.

So as long as people covered up if they were asked it would be unlikely the police would get involved.

A spokeswoman for the Royal Botanic Garden said that the situation was one which came up so infrequently, because of Scotland's less than tropical climate, that they had no set policy on the matter. "It's a difficult one, as it is pretty rare, mainly because we don't really get the chance to sunbathe that often in Scotland," she said.

"I'm not sure we'd want to encourage it, but as long as they were being quite discrete and not running around the gardens naked I don't think there would be a problem."

Sun to keep shining for the weekend, says forecast

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