IN THE village of Blacklion, locals often speak of the old tale of Gaelic poet, Cathal Buí Mac Giolla Ghunna.

Legends has it that in 1740, the famous bard walked across Lough Macnean during a mini-ice age, where he came across a bird, a Yellow Bittern, frozen in a block of ice. 

Cathal Buí lamented that bird died because it couldn't get a drink - but as a renowned "great drinker" himself, remarked that he had no intention of dying for want of a drink!

Indeed, hundreds of years later,  people still cross Lough MacNean toward Blacklion, but these days, it's for much more than just a tipple.

Located in West Cavan, the border village of Blacklion sits just half-a-mile from Belcoo, and only 12 from Enniskillen. Bolstered by natural beauty and strong transport links, the village enjoys a burgeoning tourist industry, strong business ethos, and a shared sense of community.

Much has changed since Cathal Buí made his famous walk in the 1700s, but nods to the past are abundant everywhere you look. 

One shop in particular sticks out as being quintessentially traditional - Harold Johnston's drapery, established 1901.

Owner, Harold, is a bastion of local knowledge, and his shop harks back to the halcyon days of Blacklion.

Surrounded by his many wares, including clothes, shoes and drapery, Mr. Johnston spoke with fondness on the place he has called home for a lifetime. 

"I've been dodging about here all my life," he said, sitting by an electric heater that would be useful during the aforementioned mini-ice-age. 

"I have fond memories of growing up here, especially on the fair days. On those days, many fellows who weren't used to drink would have gotten drunk. 

"When they fell out and started to fight, we would have watched on and laughed!"

Mr. Johnston continued: "The village has changed totally over the years. You often hear tales of the old hiring fairs on the Main Street, where workers would have come from as far as Fintona to work on farms. 

"They were paid £10 for six months hard labour for local men, and many used that to emigrate to America."

The affable Mr. Johnston then led me up the main street to the Market House, where outside a statue of Cathal Buí stands, complete with his famous 'two left feet'.

Mr. Johnston said that the historic building would have been the scene of court hearings, and served a variety of uses over the years. Nowadays, it functions as a hub for both the community and the area's burgeoning tourist industry. 

"It's a place people can come to socialise, meet and relax," said Margaret McCauley. "We have classes from everything from yoga to keeping fit, and the Credit Union comes here on a Thursday for those who want to use it.

"It's a popular place for everyone, especially the elderly. It helps to reduce social isolation."

The interior of the Market Place is warm and inviting, and visitors take delight in the many quirky wares on sale. If you are in the market for a hand-knitted Michael D Higgins tea cosy, you're in luck.

Of course, the Market House also serves a more serious purpose.

For Blacklion's 120 plus Ukrainian community, services such as English lessons and printing help them settle in to local life. 

"The community is very diverse here, and everyone has integrated well," Mrs. McCauley continued. "It's all good here in Blacklion. Being on the border we have the best of both worlds. 

"It's very easy to get to Enniskillen, and the Geopark has become a big pull for us. People come from all around to do Culicagh and go to the Marble Arch Caves.

"I have lived here for 43 years, and I love it here," 

Indeed, the natural beauty of the surrounding area has provided a boon for Blacklion. In the summer, the area is said to be teeming with tourists, much to the delight of local business owners. 

Down the street, the modern surrounds of the XL filling station complement the more traditional facades.

Established three years ago by Sarah McCann and Peter Hunt, the filling station serves the ever-growing community of Blacklion, as well as multiple passers-through. 

"The village has been on the up for years, largely thanks to tourism," Mrs. McCann said. "It was hit hard in the recession and businesses had to close. But things have improved a great deal."

 "I am from Blacklion, but lived for spells in Carrick-on-Shannon and Galway. When I had kids, I knew I wanted to raise them in Blacklion. 

"There's so much for the kids to do, from the lake in the summer to Shan Na Gaels football club. There's a great sense of community spirit and no one will see you stuck for anything. 

"It's the place we call home."

Indeed, Blacklion has proven to be a great place to do business for many.

In the centre of the village, DG Windows and Doors provides high-quality Josko products from a state-of-the-art showroom. 

"We supply a high end window system, so we needed to have a good location to show the product," said owner, Darragh Timoney.  "Blacklion was a perfect location. We are in a central place here to n a central place for Fermanagh, Cavan, and Sligo. We were the first Josco showroom outside of Central Europe!

"We have done projects as far as Limerick to Hillsborough to Dublin. This has been the family business for well over 35 years plus, years, so we are well-established."

And although Mr. Timoney resides in Belcoo, he is full of praise for Blacklion: "Overall, Blacklion is a great wee place, great local community, very close-knit and the surrounding areas help each other out. We have very decent people here."

If Cathal Buí could see Blacklion today, he would surely be impressed. From windows to drapery, and convenience stores to the community hub, this border village has many strings to its ever-lengthening bow.

And there is perhaps one local industry that "hard-drinking" Cathal Buí would be most interested in.

"There's plenty of craic to be had at the pubs at the weekends," agreed Gerry Maguire, proprietor of F Maguire. 

It is one of Blacklion's three pubs, each meet with scores of revellers weekly.

"If it's a drink your after, you'll certainly find it around here!" Mr. Maguire added, with a smile. 

The bard of Blacklion would be proud!