My trip to the Bliss sex festival was a total anti-climax
Crowds flock to controversial event but Una Brankin is turned away at gate
More than 500 sexual thrill-seekers attended the second day of the controversial Bliss Festival at Narrow Water Castle yesterday - a hundred more than the organisers expected.
I wasn't one of them however, having been turned away at the stone-pillared gates of the estate, near Warrenpoint, Co Down, in the afternoon.
As the erotic event was sold out, I couldn't buy a ticket, and when a dreadlocked security man contacted Bliss Ireland director Beth Wallace on my behalf, I was told she was busy in one of the tents (the mind boggles) and wasn't available to speak to me until tomorrow.
There wasn't even a hole in the hedges on the roadside a peeping Tom could have peeked through.
"It has been a great success - far more crowded than we expected," said a conservative-looking security woman.
"This type of festival is much-needed here. It brings people of all backgrounds together." The dress code for the event - which encourages nudity and intimacy - was relaxed, with "rubber, latex or leather" clad revellers welcome.
Those attending were, however, asked to "refrain from full nudity and sexual activity in public areas for legal reasons, and this includes the hot tubs and the areas around the showers and saunas".
When I raised the subject of the concerns of some local residents, namely that the event would descend into to a sexual orgy, I was directed to the updated Bliss Ireland website, which assures readers "some attend the festival never once getting naked".
It continues: "Or, in a space where others are naked, others spend the weekend exploring one or two workshops where there might be some nudity and the rest of the time meeting new friends and socialising.
"Others throw themselves into the experience and attend every workshop they can and connect with as many people as they can.
"Each and every experience, whatever it is, is right for that person, there is no right or wrong way to experience the festival other than what is right or wrong for you and YOU get to choose your boundaries."
Following opposition from locals - including an outraged Sir William Hall, former Lord Lieutenant of County Down and one of the venue's trustees - Bliss Ireland agreed to hold the festival in the grounds only, away from the castle.
Sir William's spokesman refused to accept the organisers' assertions sex acts would be conducted only in the privacy of a tent.
He claimed: "The notion the people attending this festival will restrict their lewd behaviour to the privacy of tents and there will be no abuse of alcohol or drugs is completely fanciful."
The festivities were due to draw to a close at a disco at 1am this morning. With no chance of gaining entry, I headed to the Oyster Festival in Carlingford, a 25-minute drive to the opposite side of the narrow stretch of the lough. Although oysters are supposed to have aphrodisiac powers, there wasn't one bit of canoodling to be witnessed.