ON the Main Street of Derrygonnelly, the plaster on the former Post Office has been stripped back to reveal stunning sandstone dating back centuries.

The stone, with its imperfect angles, textures and colours, reveals a natural beauty that is largely hidden from view - unless, of course, one takes the time to scratch beneath the surface.

In many respects, the town of Derrygonnelly is similar. Drive straight through the single street, and the town might appear like any other.

You may well miss the ancient buildings dotted between the new. You probably won't hear of the long history of Irish Traditional music, and it's not likely that you will stumble upon the unique 17th Century church.

Rather, the delights of Derrygonnelly, much like the cheerful sandstone, are reserved for those who stop, take the time, and stay a while.

And what a welcome awaits!

"Sure, you will come in for a cuppa," said Julie Adams, extending a warm invite from the doorway of the former post office. This hospitality is part and parcel of Derrygonnelly.

The interior of the house reveals the fruits of an ambitious renovation project. The old post office counter is no more, while in place of the old double doors is now a comfortable living room.

But the charm of the past has been maintained, whether it be through the low ceilings, handmade kitchen coloured dark green, or sandstone wall surrounding a stunning silver fireplace.

"When we came here, the ceilings were hanging down, and the garden was over our heads with three trees down," Julie explained.

"We wanted to keep the character of everything, and even outside we wanted to maintain the traditional style rather than change it. We are happy with how it is turning out."

Renovations began around a year ago when Julie, who was born in Belfast but has lived in Dorset and Devon, England, decided to call Derrygonnelly home.

"We needed somewhere where myself, my partner and our children could all stay," she explained.

"I found the people here in Derrygonnelly so lovely and warm, and for that reason, we decided to start looking for a house here.

"People here are so friendly, and there's a real sense of community. I know from living over in England that there is no culture over there any more, no community spirit.

"I have lived in places where people have been next-door neighbours for 20 years, and didn't even know each other's names.

"Here, it's completely different. We know everyone's names, they introduce themselves, and they are warm and welcoming.

"That's what you want in life, isn't it? You want your children to grow up in a place where the people are warm, where there is a sense of community, where there is culture."

Opposite Julie's abode is a building befitting a similar style, with the render removed off to reveal more stunning stone underneath.

In more ways than one, Derrygonnelly has been a place where the walls of the past have been broken down.

"Here, the people are very friendly and mix very well together," said Doris Elliot, referencing the shared ethos of Derrygonnelly.

"We have things like pantomimes, and they are true cross-community events for everyone."

Doris was speaking outside Farrell's Spar, which is in many ways a hub for the community, where people enjoy a chat and a catch-up in between grocery shopping.

"I love Farrell's Shop and the Costcutter," Doris continued. "During Covid times, when people weren't able to get out as much, they [shopkeepers] would have brought groceries to us.

"They would have been ringing us up to ask if we needed anything!"

Kevin Farrell, owner of Derrygonnelly Spar, agreed that it is important to give back to a community that has faithfully supported the shop for the past 20 years.

"We have been in business for 20 years, and this is thanks in no small part to the local people," he said.

"The community have supported us every step of the way, and in turn we have been happy to support them in every way we can.

"Derrygonnelly has always been a place that has a very local feel. Like most villages, it has a strong community."

Walking through Derrygonnelly, it's clear that sights are set on the future.

Recently, the local Orange Hall, one of many historical buildings, underwent a major series of refurbishments, including a fresh exterior facelift. Other buildings in Derrygonnelly have also received the same treatment.

Those interested in giving their building a new lease of life should contact local plasterer, Dermot Leonard.

A resident of nearby Church Hill, Dermot specialises in all kinds of plastering, and brings a wealth of experience, and a personal touch, to any job.

And Dermot isn't the only local business with the community at its core.

Lakeland Veterinary Services, owned by Innis Redmond, is more than just a local vet.

"We are part of the community here, as are the other businesses," Innis said. "We have a sofa in here, and people come in for a bit of a chat and a yarn.

"We have a book stall where people come in to buy books, which have been donated, to raise money for small animal charities. It's more than just a business with us."

All-in-all, Innis feels the community spirit in Derrygonnelly is "very positive".

"We have been here for 30 years, and we really feel we are part of the Derrygonnelly family. Things are very positive here, and there are a lot of activities going on, from walking groups, to the coffee shop and games nights. There are lots of things to get people out and about."

Julie Woods, who works at Lakeland Veterinary Services, agreed.

"I have lived nearby all my life. It's a nice place to work, the people are very nice, and it's super handy to Enniskillen."

She continued:  "I suppose one thing that is needed is funding for the local groups.

"The Derrygonnelly District Partnership does great work, but doesn't get much funding. Any kind of funding for the groups in the area would be very welcome."

Aside from funding, another resident of Derrygonnelly said that a better bus service is needed, especially at weekends and in the summer months for young people.

Meanwhile, another local said that a one-way traffic system would be beneficial, given the heavy volume of vehicles at certain times of the day in the town.

Of course, these wants and needs are indicative of a town that's ever-developing. Congestion suggests business, while a need for buses implies that despite its rural location, many people are still happy to call Derrygonnelly their home.

Undoubtedly, the allure of the town's ancient, sandstone walls and vernacular style still holds firm to this day.

A final word on the recent visit came from Christopher Gable. A former resident of upstate New York, Christopher has lived in the town for around five years.

"It's certainly different from upstate New York, but in many ways, it's the same when it comes to the countryside and the lakes," he said.

"It's a good place to live, and the fresh air is unbelievable. There'r a lot of nice people here, it's comfortable and it's quiet."

Brick by brick, a stronghold of hospitality and heritage has been built in Derrygonnelly, with its genteel allure bringing new faces and life to its charming community.