Nancy Lyon 

Travel Journalist & Photographer… 

Author Paul William Roberts in the Toronto Star called her first book, Scatter the Mud: A Traveler’s Medley, “an impressive literary debut, with prose by turns as frenetic as a Galway barroom jig, or as balefully evocative as the most mournful Celtic ballad.”
— Toronto Star

Nancy Lyon was marked for adventure at 13 when her mother, a bored Midwestern housewife, grabbed the family station wagon and her four daughters and drove from Indianapolis, Indiana to Acapulco, Mexico for the summer with "no man, no plan, and no Spanish." Nancy has ever since tried to top that rollicking rite of passage with travels from Tunisia to Malaysia, Ireland to Australia, road adventures in Dame Gitane, her mellow yellow 1970 Volkswagen Westphalia, and various lives in Manhattan, San Francisco, Switzerland, Dublin, Montreal, Quebec and Inverness, Scotland.

Nancy started her journalism career in New York City on the editorial staff of New York Magazine. Her travel stories and photos have appeared in GEO, New York Magazine, Ms., The New York Times, Travel & Leisure Magazine, The Saturday Review of Literature, The Chicago Herald Tribune, The Miami Herald, In Dublin Magazine, the Montreal Gazette, and her travel column GONE was syndicated alternative news-weeklies across Canada and the US. She was a contributing member of London England’s Travel Intelligence travel website and during her residence in Britain, was a member of the British Guild of Travel Writers. Nancy is a member of SATW, the Society of American Travel Writers. 

Nancy Lyon on a Jet Plane Wing

…and Celtic Harper

Nancy with her clairseach on the Isle of Skye

Nancy with her clairseach on the Isle of Skye

One fateful night in 1973, while working on the editorial staff of New York Magazine, Nancy was bewitched by the wild strains of the Celtic harp at an Alain Stivell concert. One thing lead to another, and soon after, she enrolled in a woodworking class. Never having worked with wood before, over nine months she built herself a wire-strung clairseach based on the 14th Century Brian Boru harp displayed in Trinity College in Dublin, Ireland. The wire-strung harp, the ancestor of the neo-Celtic gut-strung harp and classical pedal harp, is played with long fingernails to produce a primeval, haunting bell-like tone. Nancy has developed her own innovative style of ornamentation, and sometimes plays the bass notes with a violin bow for a sustained droning effect.

Nancy has been playing Irish traditional music since 1973. Her musical versatility also expresses itself through the Irish tin whistle, the bodhran (Irish goatskin drum), the diatonic button accordion, and singing. Nancy has performed on concert stages, at folk festivals, on radio and TV in Europe, Canada,  and the U.S.  In Montreal, she was regular performer at Hurley’s Irish Music pub, The Yellow Door Coffee House, and the Lion D’Or, and in CBC  Radio Canada broadcasts. In Greenwich Village, she entertained afternoon crowds at the Le Figaro Café on Bleecker Street. 

She performed with and taught the tin whistle and Celtic harp at New York City's An Claidheamh Soluis/ The Irish Arts Center for five years, and for three years, taught tin whistle at the Siamsa School of Irish Music in Montreal. And for the Comhaltas Ceoltoiri Eireann convention in Ireland and on Inishbofin off the coast of Galway. She lived in Ireland for three years, where she was Irish traditional music columnist for In Dublin magazine.

Nancy's harp has been her passport to adventure for travels throughout Europe, America and Canada, performing in folk clubs, concerts, festivals, for radio and TV. She’s also enjoyed many busking adventures on street corners from New York's Fifth Avenue to Dublin's Grafton Street, and Inverness' colorful indoor Victorian Market. She has written about some of these escapades in Scatter the Mud: A Traveller’s Medley. Nancy's life is a pendulum swing between travel writing and playing Irish, Scottish, Breton and Quebecois music. She is thrilled whenever the two happily collide, as they often do in her musical-editorial partnership with piper/writer Gordon Mooney. If you would like to contact Nancy, please write to her at


Nancy with master harper Caitriona Hewitt in Cromarty on the Black Isle

Caitriona is a creative genius on the Scottish harp, and a generous, inspiring teacher. I felt so lucky to have such quality time with her.

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