The Auld Bank café and deli is such a roaring success that it will soon be joined by The Auld Forge, a country goods store. The Auld Bank is filled to the cornice with local produce: Armagh Bramley Apples, Black Fire hot sauce from a chilli pepper grower in Belfast, dulse from the North Antrim Coast, and wild garlic from Black Mountain Belfast. Who would have thought the single street Gortin deep in the Owenkillew River valley encircled by the Sperrin Mountains would become such a fashionable destination?
At the end of the winding mountainous road leading down from the Gortin Lakes into the village is a single storey white rendered slate roofed building. Provincial Ulster architecture at its best. It overlooks St Patrick’s Church of Ireland. The pillar box red painted doors at either end of the façade are a drive-by giveaway: it’s The Old School (gender segregated entrances for schoolchildren). Upon closer inspection a plaque over each door reads: “Beltrim National School 1899”. Beltrim Castle is the estate on the edge of the village. The eight bay Old School – or should that be Auld School? – is now a smartly kitted out holiday cottage to let. A combined reception room and kitchen is open to the beamed ceiling and there are two guest bedrooms.
The most idiosyncratically located picnic table in the area is next to the roof of Rylagh Limekiln. Down a narrow road leading nowhere in particular, this square stone stower built into the roadside slope encases an egg shaped chamber made of brick. A hole in its base opening to the road facing front allowed in air to assist combustion, and at a later stage in the process, the removal of the end product. Limestone from a neighbouring quarry was burnt with peat for a week inside the limekiln to produce a white powdered form – lime – suitable for agricultural and building use. Erected in 1800, the limekiln was restored 215 years later by a local group of volunteers ‘Friends of the Glens’. The lime may have gone, but the stone structure stands as a reminder of Auld Times.