The title of "spinster" was once a badge of shame for many women. But times have changed and more and more women are happy to go solo, writes JENNY SCOTT. . .

IN the past, the single woman has been regarded almost as a social outcast.

While men have been applauded for their bachelor boy lifestyle, their female equivalents have been seen as failures for their apparent inability to find a partner.

But now women are reinventing the word "spinster" and making the most of their single status.

With single person households having increased by 23 per cent over the past decade, being partnerless no longer seems as isolating as it once did.

And, far from the Bridget Jones image of a "sad singleton", constantly on the hunt for a man to fend off loneliness, many single women see their lack of ties as a means of freedom and independence. With no ties to keep them in one place, women such as Charlotte Maudsley, 26, are seizing the chance to explore the unknown.

Charlotte, from Lammack, Blackburn, is due to set off on a trip to Peru and Mexico next month.

She said: "It's not a case of, 'I'm single, I'm really sad'. To me, being single is fantastic.

"It's like, 'What can I go and do?'"

Charlotte also believes the word "spinster" is long past it's sell-by date.

"It's a horrible word," she said. "I can't understand why men get to be bachelors, which has quite a fun ring to it, while women get called spinsters.

"I think something like bachelorette would be much more appropriate."

Ellie Lloyd, 29, from Darwen, has been single for 18 months. After having had boyfriends since her late teens, she says she is now enjoying the chance to spend a bit of time by herself.

"I'm not saying I'd want to stay single forever," she said, "but I'm happy like this for the time being and I'm not looking for anybody new.

"Being single means I've been able to spend more time with my friends and family and I've started doing some of the things I've always wanted to do.

"I'm currently learning scuba-diving and a mate and I are planning on taking a camper van around Europe for a few weeks.

"I'd never have done anything like that if I'd still been with my last few boyfriends.

"I think they just weren't as adventurous as me."

Indeed, recent surveys have proved that single women in their 20s and 30s are driving the travel market.