• Ireland
    • Galway
    • Cork
Summer, Winter
Subject Areas
Anthropology Archaeology Architecture Art History Conservation and Preservation Education European Studies Field Studies History

Program Details

Program Type
Degree Level
Associates Bachelors Masters PhD.
Apartment Dormitory Host Family


Starting Price
Price Details
Scholarships available
What's Included
Accommodation Activities Classes Meals Travel Insurance Wifi
What's Not Included
Airfare Visa
Nov 11, 2019
Jun 10, 2018
9 travelers are looking at this program

About Program

The Institute for Field Research would like to present our rich and varied collection of field programs in Ireland. These field programs are located across Ireland and focus on archaeology ranging from the Norman invasion to the Historical Era.

Ireland is a beautiful country known for it’s green countryside and rocky seaside. Come experience Ireland’s rich and welcoming culture by attending a field school in Birr, Ferrycarrig (winter and summer programs available,) Inishbofin, or the infamous Irish Alcatraz, Spike Island!

Video and Photos

Program Highlights

  • ireland
  • Europe
  • Archaeology
  • Excavation
  • Historical

Related Programs

Program Reviews

4.86 Rating
based on 7 reviews
  • 5 rating 85.71%
  • 4 rating 14.29%
  • 3 rating 0%
  • 2 rating 0%
  • 1 rating 0%
  • Academics 4.15
  • Support 4.85
  • Fun 4.85
  • Housing 4.85
  • Safety 5
Showing 1 - 7 of 7 reviews
Default avatar
Yes, I recommend this program

Inis Airc & how I fell in love with archaeology

I am one of the most indecisive people I know. To overcome this, I've developed the tendency to make snap decisions about important things, which is pretty much how I ended up in Ireland last summer.

I took an introductory archaeology course the first semester I was at college and found it the only class that I was excited to wake up for at 8 in the morning. When I started thinking about how I wanted to spend the summer after my freshman year, I couldn't think of anything else I'd rather do. I chose the Inishark program because my archaeology professor knew the professors running it and told me I'd like them. Part of me expected to hate it - dirt, early mornings, digging. Things I hadn't enjoyed since elementary school. But I packed (and bought) all of my gear for the summer and shipped off to Dublin at the end of May, figuring that at the very least, I'd get to spend some time in a beautiful country.

The first day in Ireland, I got on the wrong bus, got off at the wrong stop, walked an hour through Galway with my suitcase, and showed up too early to my Airbnb. It was great. I spent a few days in Galway by myself, exploring the city before I met up with the IFR group I'd be spending the next month with. We took a van across western Ireland, then loaded onto a ferry to cross the ocean to Inishbofin, a small island that now holds some of my favorite memories.

Inishbofin is a breathtaking mixture of craggy cliffs, long grasses, white sand beaches, furry pigs, and a depth of history I'd never encountered in America. The Doonmore, the hotel & restaurant we stayed at while on Bofin, was welcoming and supportive of our ragtag group of archaeologists (and archaeologists-to-be). It's where I fell in love with sticky toffee pudding, discovered the appropriate ratio of Guinness to Smithwicks, and heard the kind of tales only Irish storytellers can create.

Leaving Bofin was hard, but leaving Shark a few weeks later was even harder.

The brunt of our field school was spent on the island of Inishark, twenty minutes by ferry from Bofin. Shark was abandoned in 1960 but bears the marks of habitation from as early as the Bronze Age. The twentieth century stone settlements are more obvious, but history became visible the closer I looked.

Living on Inishark is one of the most challenging things I've ever done. It didn't quite register while I was there, but once I returned to my parents' home in Pennsylvania, I realised how much I had grown over the month.

There is no running water on Inishark. No electricity. We brought everything we needed - water, food, toilet paper - on one ferry and took it back on another when we left the island. The bathroom was wherever camp was out of sight, though this illusion of privacy never quite extended to the sheep that wandered the island. The buildings that were still standing were, for the most part, without roofs and dangerous to sleep in, so our homes were bright orange tents that dotted the rolling hills by St. Leo's church. The sky never seemed to go dark until ten or eleven, and the sun and its chorus of birds frequently woke me before five. It was the best I've slept in years.

During the days, I worked on Clochán Leo, a medieval Christian beehive-shaped stone construct perched on the edge of a cliff that slowly sloped down into the ocean. It was frequently windy and rainy. For a week, I took my waterproof pants and jacket off only to sleep at night. Every morning, I woke excited to take up my trowel and went to bed exhausted but immensely, wonderfully satisfied. We moved buckets upon buckets of dirt and sod to return to a medieval layer of soil in the clochán and the surrounding area. We found the remnants of a tea party and of early Christianity, every day going back a little further in time.

I'm sure my friends and family have since grown sick of how much I talk about Shark and Bofin. The people I met on the dig were a unique group that I still stay in contact with and think about today. The history I helped recreate brought a passion back into my life that I realised I had been missing for years. As a result of my IFR experience, I taught a course at my university on Irish culture, worked on another excavation in south Texas, learned how to play a ukulele, discovered a surprising interest in medieval Christianity, and fell even more in love with archaeology than I thought possible.

I don't know where I will go in my next two years of college or what path I'll take after I graduate, but I know that archaeology will be a part of it. And for that, for my time on Shark, I am unimaginably grateful.

What would you improve about this program?
More time. Then again, I doubt I ever really would have been ready to leave.
33 people found this review helpful.
Default avatar
Yes, I recommend this program

IFR: Trim, Ireland

I had the best time of my life, literally! The staff were amazing and the program itself was just unbelievable. I could not have asked for a better experience! In fact I have been planning on moving there ever since leaving! This was a life changing experience and I have recommended it to everyone I know. The knowledge I gained and friends I made are irreplaceable and the connections, both professional and personal, will be with me forever. Staying in a town where a medieval castle is the focal point is unlike anything else! Don't wait! Go!

What would you improve about this program?
Make it longer! I never wanted to leave!
33 people found this review helpful.
Read my full story
Default avatar
Yes, I recommend this program

A Summer I'll Never Forget

The Spike Island archaeological field school was by far one of the best experiences I have ever had! During the excavation, I was engaged in every aspect of the work, learning invaluable skills that I will carry on throughout my career. The supervisors were supportive and challenging, encouraging us as we completed our work. The island and surrounding scenery is beautiful and engaging, I couldn't help but look on in awe some days on my way to the excavation sites. And as far as my fellow students go, I can honestly say I have never been a part of such an amazing group of people before. I have made friends for life that I will carry in my heart, no matter where I go. If you are looking for a one of a kind experience, then I definitely suggest the Spike Island field school.

What would you improve about this program?
If I had to change anything in this program, I would honestly make it longer. I seriously could have spent more time learning from these great people, it was tough to go home.
37 people found this review helpful.
Read my full story
Default avatar
Yes, I recommend this program

Great experience

I had a great time at Blackfriary, and the only criticisms I have are organisational ones that I think come from the fact they hadn't dealt with such a large group of students on site before.

The accommodation was much better than anything I expected, in luxurious self-contained housing next to the golf course with access to hotel facilities including a pool and sauna. The food was usual group catering, over boiled meat and veg. There is a large supermarket about 30min walk away, and a gas station 10min away.

The supervisors were on the whole wonderful, relaxed and helpful. My fellow students were some of the best people I've ever met and made the experience all the better. Beware that close quarters over long weeks of hard work will cause friction - but there was always an opportunity to get privacy and decompress.

I loved the time on site as it was some of the first real field experience I had, and it was a relaxed and supportive environment to learn in. The excursions off site tied in well to what we learnt, and offered a real sense of context.

I do wish that the emphasis on human burials in the description of the program had been fulfilled. They rotated us around the site in week-long chunks. It was luck as to who got assigned a burial when the rotation came, and if you got one you had a full week on it. If there was no burial available you missed out. I wasn't lucky. I was upset about that, as working on human remains in situ was the reason I chose the program.

I think this was the result of the big group I was in, but they could have rotated people through burials in 3 or 4 day chunks to give more people an opportunity to work on the thing that had attracted most of us to the program.

Overall, this is a wonderful, comfortable introduction to field archaeology in a country with a rich history - both in terms of human occupation and in archaeology. The supervisors are experienced and helpful, and the experience well worth it.

What would you improve about this program?
The division of work could be restructured to give everyone a chance at working on a burial.
34 people found this review helpful.
Response from Institute for Field Research

We are glad that you found a supportive learning environment at the Ireland - Blackfriary field school, Jess. It is unfortunate that you were unable to participate in the excavation of a burial. Part of the excitement of archaeology is never really knowing what you will find, and this occasionally leads to disappointment. We are happy that you found the experience worth it overall.

-- The IFR Team

Default avatar
Yes, I recommend this program

Probably the best way to be introduced to fieldwork

The staff are not only dedicated to doing quality work, but also to ensuring that students understand not only the how of excavation but also the why. It's an extremely supportive environment, and you're encouraged to ask questions. Days start early and end late, but you get breaks throughout the day and are well fed. You also get to work under a variety of supervisors, as you get rotated around trenches (usually weekly) so you get to experience a range of different soils, trenches, and artifacts. There's lecture and lab, even though you're living on an island, and IFR students are required to write a short paper during your time there. Weekends are free time to do as you please, and Friday's are half days so you have time to take your laundry to the mainland. Cobh is a beautiful town, and is readily accessible to Cork which has plenty to do and experience.

What would you improve about this program?
A little more lab analysis would have been nice; however, due to the program being on an island only accessible by ferry, this restriction is understandable.
33 people found this review helpful.
Response from Institute for Field Research

Thank you for your review, Erica! We pride ourselves on providing our students with high quality research environments where they can learn and grow as scholars.

-- The IFR Team

Default avatar
Yes, I recommend this program

Fun in Trim

Academic rigor was not nearly as difficult as I faced in my 4 year university program but focused on independent research and a presentation. The staff did meet with us multiple times to ensure that we were on the right path. Majority of the staff was very knowledgeable and extremely willing to teach and connect with students. I was greatly disappointed that they did not ensure that every student got the chance to work on a burial. Part of this was due to luck and timing, but based on their emphasis of the biological aspect of archeology I expected to leave having worked on a burial. I did however get to handle human remains but very disappointed with my biological week. Food was terrible through the ifr program but the people in my group were amazing. You get a fish bowl effect as you literally spend all your time with your group for five weeks, but still fun and most everyone in the program were extremely close by the end of five weeks. I personally had a problem with one of the teachers. For whatever reason, this particular grad student who was supervising us in a cutting took a dislike to me personally and continually criticized everything I did in a non-constructive manner nor would she show any of us what to do. She even tried to have the site supervisor reassign me to post-ex (washing bones) for the week due to a non-pressing medical reason and you could tell she thoroughly disliked dealing with inexperienced students. We all questioned why she was working at a teaching field school. Other students also had problems with this particular grad student. All other supervisors and program leaders were absolutely wonderful, extremely supportive and eager to teach. I would highly recommend this program to anyone interested in Irish archaeology! Be prepared to do manual labor and realize this is not for those wanting to travel everyday. The work days are long and it is near impossible to leave Trim during the work week. Weekend are free so you can travel then. Trim is wonderful. They have delicious food in town. be prepared to learn a lot, explore trim castle, be apart of some really amazing archaeology and grow to love the sheep on site!

What would you improve about this program?
The food through the IFR program was terrible. They tried to work with us, but by the end we were getting three of the same dinner every week. Most of us resorted to cooking together and getting supplemental food.

33 people found this review helpful.
Response from Institute for Field Research

Beth, we are happy that you were able to conduct independent research as a part of this program, as it is a part of our mission to expose students to the research process. It is impressive that despite the difficulties you had with a challenging supervisor you were able to connect with the rest of the supportive staff on the project. Thank you for your honest review! We are constantly improving our programs based on our students' feedback. We hope you'll look back fondly on exploring Trim castle for years to come.

-- The IFR Team

Default avatar
Yes, I recommend this program

Experience of a Life Time

The Spike Island Field School is most wonderful learning experience for a person interested in the criminal justice system and archaeology. With bioarcheology being the main focus, students would learn first hand experience of removing artifacts from the context (matrix or "dirt"), without damaging anything fragile. The learning experience is great as well as meeting new people. From USA to Canada to France and of course Ireland, you manage to learn from different perspectives and gain friends a long the way. Besides You live with them on the Island for the whole month. (Weekends you are able to leave the Island to venture off and enjoy the country). The faculty is great with offering you any answers to your questions even if you are new or old to anthropology or archaeology.

What would you improve about this program?
I honestly have nothing to add to change the program. I actually enjoyed my time.
32 people found this review helpful.
Response from Institute for Field Research

Thank you for your review, Sereen! Thanks to great students like you, we can continue offering wonderful learning experiences.

-- The IFR Team

Questions & Answers