The people of Glaslough, Co Monaghan, were watching and waiting today to see if a showbiz extravaganza would explode on their doorstep with the wedding of Sir Paul McCartney to Heather Mills.
After several days of feverish activity around Castle Leslie in Glaslough, Co Monaghan, locals were wondering when the big day would be.
Last night it was thought that the lavish celebrations would be held at the fairytale castle next Tuesday.
But there were other indications that the couple may exchange vows over the weekend.
Sir Paul, 59, has refused to confirm whether he will wed 34-year-old Mills at the Victorian castle which hides within 1,000 acres of grounds behind thick trees and a perimeter wall.
But one member of the Leslie family may have unwittingly let the closely guarded secret slip.
Sir John Leslie said: ‘‘We are told vaguely it is next Tuesday like the papers say, but it is all secret, I have to keep it dead secret, you know,’’ he said.
The eccentric 84-year-old, sporting a green beret adorned with a peacock feather, also revealed that Sir Paul had recently paid a visit to the castle with Miss Mills.
He said: ‘‘He came here about a year or two ago just as a visitor - we take paying visitors - and he had a look around.’’
But he added: ‘‘They might do something at the last minute or change it, you never know.’’
The presence of 100 security men patrolling the perimeter of the 1870 castle was also something of a giveaway.
Locals said a private security firm, which guarded the wedding of Guy Ritchie and Madonna, had arrived from Scotland to prevent prying eyes from sneaking into the grounds.
However a local farmer, who did not want to give his name, claimed that a guest house within the grounds had been booked for the weekend but was opening again next week, pointing to a Saturday or Sunday wedding.
Some sceptics suggested it may even be an elaborate ploy to divert the world’s attention, allowing the couple to tie the knot in private.
But there was still huge activity at the castle today. Two giant marquees and a covered walkway have been erected in the 1,000-acre grounds and workmen are installing lights in the trees.
A no-fly zone has been imposed over the grounds, according to local helicopter lease companies, preventing journalists from photographing the preparations and party.
Diane Kendrick, 41, landlady at The Olde Bar, which stands just yards from the castle entrance, said: ‘‘We are all excited but we do not know what is going on. There have been lorries and trucks up and down this road for the last few days, it is going to be a huge party.’’
Other locals said the castle and adjoining Greystone’s Equestrian Centre had been booked by Sir Paul for at least two weeks.
Glaslough postmistress Gladys Lyster said: ‘‘It is strange with all these photographers and cameramen around but it is very exciting for us all, especially the children.’’
Sir Paul has said only that wedding preparations are ‘‘going fine’’ and his official spokesman insisted he did not know where it would be.
But the world’s media began descending on the village after veteran New York Post columnist Cindy Adams named it as the venue earlier this week.
Adams claimed 300 guests would dine on an Indian vegetarian buffet from 14-inch gold serving plates in one of three marquees.
The castle has played host to a number of celebrities over the years including Mick Jagger and the Corrs.
Its 14 bedrooms have no telephone, television or clock, and the bathrooms are described in guides as ‘‘wacky’’ and ‘‘outrageous’’, while waitresses are dressed in Victorian attire.
Rooms range from €195-€235 a night and other famous guests have included members of the Churchill family and the King and Queen of Sweden.
Sir Paul met anti-landmines campaigner Mills three years ago and the pair announced their engagement in July last year.
Other suggested venues for their wedding including New York and Skibo Castle in Scotland, where Madonna and Guy Ritchie tied the knot.