The Ritual Pilgrim Landscape of Disert, Ireland

COVID-19 NOTICE: Please be sure to reach out to the project contact to find out the status of their upcoming season. Many projects have cancelled fieldwork for 2020 and the information below may not reflect that.

This listing expired on April 5, 2019. Please contact for any updated information.

Location: Donegal Town, DG, IE

Season: June 23, 2019 to July 20, 2019

Session Dates: June 23 to July 20, 2019

Application Deadline: April 5, 2019

Deadline Type: Rolling


Program Type:
Field school

RPA Certified:

Institute for Field Research, Connecticut College, Institute of Technology Sligo, California State University LA

Project Director:
Dr Fiona Beglane and Dr René Vellanoweth

Project Description:

Disert is a ritual pilgrim landscape in Co. Donegal that includes a series of early ecclesiastical enclosures, penitential cairns, a holy well dedicated to St Colmcille (also known as St Columba), a post-medieval altar and a cillín (children’s graveyard). It may date to as early as the sixth century AD when it was reputedly founded by St Colmcille or may even extend back into prehistory.  Disert is still important today for religious devotion and for pilgrims seeking miraculous cures for medical conditions.

This spectacular area lies at the foothills of the Bluestack Mountains, some 10km from Donegal Town and the Wild Atlantic Way. Rural sites such as this are poorly understood and the excavation will offer the opportunity to examine the role of Disert in both early and more recent Irish Christianity.

2019 will be the first year of excavation so the focus will be on understanding the dating and origin of the site as well as the nature of features previously identified by fieldwalking, drone survey and geophysics.  Students will be working closely with members of the local community and with Irish students to begin to unpick this fascinating story. They will gain experience of excavating, recording and surveying sites and in the evenings will be introduced to Irish culture, society and hospitality.

Period(s) of Occupation: Historical archaeology: early medieval period through to the post-medieval and modern periods

One of the main objectives of the field school is to develop the archaeological skills and understanding of the participants and their ability to communicate their knowledge. This will be achieved using a balance of formal lectures, fieldtrips and readings as well as solid practical experience of excavating, recording and surveying archaeological features and in explaining heritage to members of the public. Additionally, students will experience another culture as they will be working closely with members of the local community and with Irish students, and in the evenings will be introduced to Irish food, music, society and hospitality.

Project Size: 1-24 participants

Minimum Length of Stay for Volunteers: 4 weeks

Minimum Age: 18

Experience Required: None. This field school will give you the opportunity to develop a range of skills, and for those with prior archaeological experience, to build upon those skills and develop them further.

Room and Board Arrangements:
Students will be housed in purpose-built holiday homes in a mixture of single and twin-bedded rooms, which will be allocated using a random draw at the welcome meeting. Those sharing rooms will do so with others of the same gender. Fresh bed linen and regular cleaning of communal areas will be provided.  Students should provide their own towels. There is a washing machine in each house. The accommodation has a tennis court for the use of guests, there is a rocky shore approximately 10 minutes walk from the accommodation and a sandy beach 20 minutes walk away. Three meals per day (breakfast/lunch/dinner) are included from Monday to Friday plus the welcome meal on the first Sunday evening. Tea, coffee, water and biscuits (cookies) will also be provided on site during the excavation. Students will need to prepare and bring their own packed lunch daily from groceries supplied by the project. A large tent will be provided on-site to store bags and for shelter at mealtimes if necessary. Evening meals will be prepared by a professional chef and will always include at least one option that contains meat, fish or poultry plus at least one vegetarian option. Students will be required to assist with washing up after meals. If you have any particular dietary needs or allergies then contact us in advance. Cost: Accommodation for the whole field school and full board Monday-Friday are included in the cost of the field school.

Academic Credit:
Attending students will be awarded 8 semester credit units (equivalent to 12 quarter credit units) through our academic partner, Connecticut College. Connecticut College is a private, highly ranked liberal arts institution with a deep commitment to undergraduate education. Students will receive a letter grade for attending this field school (see grading assessment and matrix). This field school provides a minimum of 160 direct instructional hours. Students are encouraged to discuss the transferability of credit units with faculty and registrars at their home institutions prior to attending this field school. credits offered by Connecticut College. Connecticut College is a private, highly ranked liberal arts institution with a deep commitment to undergraduate education. . Tuition is $4445, which includes academic credit, costs of instruction, room and board, all local transportation and health and evacuation insurance..

Contact Information:

Institute for Field Research

2999 Overland Ave. Suite 103,





Phone: 877-839-4374

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