I wasn't’ quite sure what to expect when I arrived at Narrow Water Castle for Northern Ireland’s first ever erotic festival.
But watching a Hulk Hogan lookalike rub a book around his genitals wasn’t how I imagined spending my Saturday morning.
As I sat on my yoga mat in the main tent at Bliss Festival I couldn’t help think it was all a bit surreal as the white-haired Bruce Lyon delivered his talk on “Wild Love in Thin Places”.
A buxom blonde wearing a baggy dress over her bikini humped the ground as he spoke. A tie-dye clad couple locked legs and stared lovingly into each other’s eyes.
Meanwhile, fully clothed Lyon continued to simulate making love to his book while repeatedly saying “f*** the book”.
Around 60 people absorbed every word he said and there was much nodding of heads when he announced — in cruder language — that the thing about the Bible is that Jesus never mentioned his genitals.
It was a strange start to a Saturday but everyone at the event seemed friendly and respectable.
Posing as a festival-goer, I soaked up the atmosphere and that rare thing this summer —sunshine.
Orgasmic yoga, a discussion on arousal, the G-spot experience and two cuddle parties were just some of the activities on the agenda at Bliss Festival yesterday and some revellers queued for over an hour just to sign up.
While buying a bottle of water from one of the many food and drink vans, I befriended a dreadlocked young couple who seemed to have come straight from the Seventies.
The 20something woman said that this was her fourth time at a festival like Bliss and she was looking forward to Rex McCann’s Coming Home workshop at 7pm “because I know it will be so intense”.
When I asked her what she meant about the session — described by organisers as “a journey of initiation, activation and homecoming” — she jokingly replied: “I think the clue is in the title.”
With my water in one hand and my yoga mat in the other, I walked the short distance to the campsite, located on a lane close to the castle.
Around 100 tents and teepees were scattered around the grass, with groups of new arrivals assembling pegs, poles and camp chairs.
Just a few hundred yards away, guests could visit the Oriental Bazaar and Pleasuredome, a circus-style tent that offers chai tea, truffles and other tasty treats, before stripping off for a sauna session.
The Bosca Beatha mobile sauna tent was open from 7am to 11pm and, from the front, boasts breathtaking views of Carlingford Lough.
A father of three, in his 40s, assured me that it would be “well worth the visit” and advised me not to worry because “most people just wear their swim stuff”.
It is true what the organisers say when they claim that they welcome all sorts of people over the age of 18 to the event, which cost 169 euro a ticket.
There were people from across the globe including an American yoga and pilates teacher who told me, “the wonderful thing about festivals like this is that everyone is just here to enjoy themselves, whatever way that may be for them.”
During the day tents were being built for everything from erotic toy shops and sexually transmitted disease testing to pro-abortion campaigns.
On my short journey from the tents back to Narrow Water Castle, I was joined by a hippy man in sandals.
After exchanging pleasantries, he asked me had I come to the festival with anyone, to which I replied no.
“Well, if you’re looking for a companion for any of the classes today I would offer my services,” he said with a cheeky smile.
I declined his offer but I learned that single people often form partnerships with other like-minded individuals at events like Bliss, meaning that they can “experience the connection fully” in classes such as Diana Gentle and Cameron Thompson’s playshop 4 Handed, 4 Minute Love Shower and erotic party games, both of which were at the festival this weekend.
High-profile speakers at the fest include sex worker Laura Lee who was scheduled to take part in a panel discussion titled “Sex Work is Real Work”.
And “sacred sexuality practitioner” Seani Love was taking a workshop titled “Consent and Boundaries Save The World”.
Last night sexually inquisitive guests at Bliss enjoyed a two-hour long cuddle party with Adam Paulman, Stella Anna Sonnenbaum and Monique Darling.
Guests had to register on Friday night and were told to bring a yoga mat, blanket or cushion to the purpose-built “Cuddle Tent” where they would learn how to explore non-sexual touch.
Organisers describe the “advanced communication workshop” as being “cleverly disguised as a pyjama party” and invite guests to wear their night clothes to the Cuddle Party if they would be more comfortable.
Festival-goers could also go to The Marketplace and The Grove to buy adult toys and costumes or enjoy hot tubs and massages.
Many attendees commented on how beautiful the surroundings were, but it’s hard to imagine the estate’s owners ever anticipated it would attract an event such as this.
It wasn’t my cup of tea and while I’ll not be rushing back to another erotic festival any time soon, it certainly was an eye-opener.