Woodland attractions laid on for Electric Picnic revellers

Members of the Footsbarn Theatre company perform in The Hazel Wood

Ireland's hotly-anticipated Electric Picnic festival has kept back a couple a secrets until days before it opens - two new areas deep within its ancient woods.

As 55,000 revellers make final preparations for the country's flagship three-day music and arts extravaganza, organisers revealed new attractions at the sprawling Stradbally Hall site in Co Laois.

The Hazel Wood is an interactive theatre space tucked away in Stradbally's enchanted forest complete with traditional gypsy caravans, wooden furniture and its own campfire.

Singer Cathy Davey is to give a "special intimate performance" to help launch the 12-year-old festival's newest space which will feature visual displays, interactive theatre and contemporary art over the weekend.

"Hazel Wood is a very special area," says Lindsey Holmes, festival spokeswoman.

"It is a natural space in the middle of the forest, reminiscent of a bygone era, with lovely old gyspy-style wanderly wagon caravans.

"It is like an elegant wonderland, a magical world with lots of incredible looking characters and there is something here for all ages.

"It really is quite special."

In another neck of the woods, there is the "long abandoned city" of Anachronica.

Its broken and dilapidated buildings lurk through the trees, with the whirr of machinery and belching smoke offering a dystopian steam-punk throwback to the reassuring Hazel Wood.

"It is like an industrialised Gotham city, with amazing lighting and dance music," says Holmes.

"It is like nothing that has been seen before in Ireland and the perfect backdrop for dancing into the night."

Headliners on the main stage this year include LCD Soundsystem, Lana Del Rey, The Chemical Brothers, New Order and Noel Gallagher's High Flying Birds.

Europe's dance capital Amsterdam is also relocating to the Irish midlands for the sold-out event, with top Dutch DJs captaining a special Sound Atlas barge that will host some of the biggest parties each night.

Another first this year will be the opening of Stradbally's lake for swimmers.

Organisers say a refreshing dip surrounded by a copse of ancient oak and ash trees will be just the ticket to refresh the senses the morning after the night before.