United Kingdom: Celtic Connections

Celtic Connections

with Appalachia (England, Ireland, Wales, & Northern Ireland) 



Dr. Lori Schmied
Professor of Psychology
Sutton Science Center

Dr. Paul Threadgill
Professor of Biology
Sutton Science Center

Course Goals:

1. To experience and have a better understanding and appreciation of Celtic culture

2. To explore the cultural connections and heritage of Celtic lands and Southern Appalachia

3. To explore the natural history of the region and connections with Southern Appalachia

Course Description:

Recognizing the influence that the Scots-Irish Celts have had on Southern Appalachia, we will travel to two areas closely associated with these connections, Wales and Northern Ireland (Ulster), to explore the cultural and natural heritage of the region.  The cultural connections are myriad, ranging from music to agriculture/industry to education.  Students will have the opportunity to examine one of these areas in depth, working in pairs or small groups.  There are also connections with regard to natural history of each region.  The connections include not only the actual geological formations and biological communities, but philosophies of interacting with the natural world and how best to manage environmental resources in harsh regions unsuitable for large-scale agriculture.

Each location on the itinerary offers unique opportunities for students and represents different aspects of Celtic culture.  After arriving at London, England, we will spend a day recovering from jetlag.  We will then use the next two days to explore a few of the major sites but also laying a foundation for the rest of the program.  Next we will travel to Wrexham, North Wales. In Wales we will investigate aspects of Celtic culture, focusing on music, educational institutions, history, and literature. We will visit Caernarfon (one of the premier castles in the UK where the investiture of the Prince of Wales takes place), one of King Edward's ring of castles and the walled city of Chester as part of a discussion of Celtic history.  Wales also provides a venue for an in-depth examination of the connections with Southern Appalachia.  An option one day will be a visit to nearby Llangollen, a former mining village (like the villages from which Welsh coal miners came to East Tennessee) and now home to one of the most prestigious song and story-telling festivals in the world (the Eisteffod). 

From Wales we will travel to Belfast, Northern Ireland.  Here we will build on the introduction to Celtic culture received in Wales and concentrate our focus on the primary the Ulster-Scots experience, especially as it relates to the 18th century migration to eastern North America and the southern Appalachians. The historic shipyards and docks of Belfast are where many of the Appalachian settlers departed and a day visit to the Ulster-American Folk museum in Omagh will help students learn about that period.  The Ulster-Scots Agency is helping to coordinate our visit and arranging programs. We will also visit the Giant's Causeway to talk about it both as a World Heritage Site and about how proximity played a prominent role in the Ulster-Scots experience. We hope to do a service-learning project in Armagh in cooperation with George Patton, former director of the Ulster-Scots Agency. We will end the study/travel program in Dublin, a vibrant world capital teeming with culture and history.  This will provide an opportunity not only to contrast/compare the Republic with Northern Ireland, but continue our study of Appalachian connections and begin the process of integration of what we have learned during the past few weeks.

**Approved for the Appalachian Studies Minor & Experiential Credit


Approximate Costs: $3,800 

(Exact cost TBA - price may go down)


The price includes: Round-trip airfare, local transportation, housing, some meals (all breakfasts and some other meals), field trips, international travel insurance, application fee, and deposit.

Not included: Passport, immunizations, some meals & personal expenses

*Please note that prices are tentative and may fluctuate based on variation in exchange rates, number of participants, price fluctuations in actual airfares and fuel surcharges, or administrative overhead.

*DON'T FORGET spending money for meals not included and shopping.  250 pounds is a good average.

Right now the Pound is US$1.44

Tentative Itinerary

Jan 4 depart Knoxville

Jan 5-7 London

Jan 8-12 North Wales

Jan 13-18 Northern Ireland

Jan 19-20 Republic of Ireland

Jan 21 Depart Ireland 

London: Tower of London, Westminster Abbey, Trafalgar Square, St. Paul’s Cathedral 

  • Orientation
  • Walking Tour of Major Sites
  • Tower of London, British Museum, Free time
  • Family-owned Hotel

 Wales:  Wrexham, Llangollen, Welsh slate mining, Roman and Tudor historical sites in Chester, Caernarfon Castle

  • Wrexham: Introduction to Celtic Culture
  • Dolwyddelan Castle,
  • Caernarfon Castle,
  • Llangollen,
  • Llechwedd Slate Caverns,
  • Chester, England (Roman & Tudor Sites)
  • *learn about the interconnections between the English & Welsh

N. Ireland:  Belfast, Londonderry, Ulster-American Folk museum, Armagh, Giants Causeway

  • Belfast is base of operations
  • Introduction to Scots-Irish Culture
  • Peace Line
  • City Tour
  • Titanic Museum
  • Game of Thrones sites and optional tours
  • Ulster American Folk Park
  • Giant's Causeway: UNESCO World Heritage Site
  • Armagh:
  • A cultural evening with music and dance,  
  • Community-based service

Ireland: Dublin

  • Orientation to the City
  • Free time
  • Wrap-Up and Reflection @ the oldest pub in Ireland

 Things to Know:

  • In all locations there will be some free time to explore.

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Students say...

"The Celtic Connections program was a truly once in a lifetime experience. Being able to travel through the UK and Ireland really opened my eyes to the wider world and what connects us all as humans." - Libby Hess

"I loved everything about this experience. You learn a lot about yourself when traveling."  -Abby Swabe