The Kilcronaghan Centre celebrates 15 years of success

Full turnout for the vintage rally
Full turnout for the vintage rally

When the committee members of the Kilcronaghan Community Association met recently to plan for their 12th annual vintage rally (September 26) at the Kilcronaghan Centre near Tobermore, they reflected on their achievements and the development of the Kilcronaghan complex over the last two decades.

Set in beautiful grounds, just off the Rectory Road, the centre is housed in the former Church of Ireland Rectory, which dates from the early 19th century and is just next door to the Old Church that takes its name from Saint Cronaghan, who is said to have taught Saint Columbcille.

The comings and goings at the centre are also reminiscent of past times in the area, with its five-road-ends road junction indicating that it must have been a place of importance at one time.

When a new rectory was built nearby in the mid-1990s the old house was leased to Kilcronaghan Community Association, which was able to access funding to have it restored and it was opened as an activity and conference centre.

A cross-community facility, the accommodation is well used by youth groups, church groups and school groups from far and wide. The centre has a special study package for Key Stages 2 and 3, which consists of three meals a day, accommodation, use of all facilities and relevant study booklets. The package certainly offers an interesting and fun learning experience for children covering Key Stage 2 topics such as the environment, history – the Victorians, and geography – the Sperrins and Kilcronaghan Old Church, and Key Stage 3 topics, history – the Plantation of Ulster, and local and global citizenship.

The subjects are dealt with by relating them to the locality, which has a wealth of resources for the young people to explore.

The centre can cater for large parties or groups, up to 40, and is an excellent residential venue for conferences, meetings and training sessions. The sun lounge gives a panoramic view of the Sperrin mountains and is ideal for private classes, small groups or meetings.

The comfortable Northern Ireland Tourist Board approved accommodation includes five twin rooms – one with disabled facilities – three two-bed rooms and four four-bed rooms. All rooms are en-suite and have been enjoyed not only by youth groups, but also by motocross followers, with a world championship circuit only a short walk away, by bikers attracted to view the North West 200, by mountain bikers enjoying the Davagh trails and by wedding guests.

The centre is an ideal location too for those wanting to visit local places of historical and cultural interest, and for hill walkers, with the majestic Slieve Gallion enhancing the picturesque setting of the Centre. There are kitchen facilities for self-catering, or catering can be provided. A laundry room and a large games room are also incorporated in the complex.

A new conference centre, furnished to a high standard, has recently been developed on-site, offering all modern facilities. This centre can be hired independently or in conjunction with accommodation. Seating up to 100 people, the conference centre is regularly used for the highly successful community leisure classes, for example, painting, crafts, horticulture, genealogy, reminiscence. Book launches, concerts, school functions, trade displays, family reunions, wedding receptions, adult learning classes (including Queen’s University Lifelong Learning classes) etc. have also used this excellent self-contained facility.

Visitors can also relax in the beautiful grounds, wander through the community garden, make use of the barbecue area or just sit and gaze at the distant Sperrin hills, Slieve Gallion or Slemish – all of which are visible through the site’s many mature trees.

Guided walks including local history trails are available and guests will enjoy the benefit of the detailed local knowledge of the volunteer helpers. Local tourist information leaflets and lots of books of local interest are always available in the Centre. Details of the Centre’s illustrious former residents and even the building’s link to “Zorba the Greek” can be studied.

As an example of a successful rural social enterprise the Kilcronaghan Centre is one of the leaders.

Many community groups have visited, toured and complimented the centre – the visitors book bears testimony to this. The directors and community association committee are all local volunteers – mostly farmers, farmers’ wives, community representatives and retired people from the Draperstown, Desertmartin, Tobermore triangle in south Derry. They often have to call on extra voluntary help from the locality. For example, the hugely successful annual vintage rally requires dozens of volunteers and the help of local organisations, like Curragh Young Farmers Club, is greatly appreciated.

To celebrate 15 years of social enterprise success, special offers on bookings for accommodation, conferences, meetings or any of the on-site facilities are now available for the remainder of 2015.

For further details, or to arrange a visit, telephone 028 7962 7826 or email manager@kilcronaghan.co.uk.

The centre’s website is www.kilcronaghan.co.uk or Kilcronaghan’s facebook can be checked for news.