Westford native Katie McNally is well known in the region’s Celtic music community. The 2009 New England Scottish Fiddle champion is a member of the Boston-based fiddle group Childsplay. McNally, 27, who lives in Somerville, will be performing with the Katie McNally Trio at the 15th annual Boston Celtic Music Festival at Harvard Square’s Club Passim and the Sinclair Jan 18-21. The four-day BCMFest celebrates music and dance by tapping into Irish, Scottish, and Cape Breton traditions, as well as other Celtic-related customs found in the Greater Boston area. We caught up with McNally to talk about all things travel.
Favorite vacation destination? This one is easy for me. I love visiting Cape Breton Island in Nova Scotia, Canada. In the summer and fall, there are nightly square dances all around the island, lunchtime ceilidhs (parties with live music) at the Celtic Music Interpretive Centre in Judique, swimming at stunning beaches, and of course amazing hiking up in the Cape Breton Highlands National Park. Most of the time I’m there for some kind of work, either recording or gigs, but it hardly feels that way given how much fun I have when I’m there.
Favorite food or drink while vacationing? Fresh fish, prepared any way is my go-to in Cape Breton. In particular, I love the fish and chips at the Red Shoe Pub in Mabou. And you need to wash it down with the Cereal Killer Oatmeal Stout from Big Spruce Brewing.
Where would you like to travel to but haven’t? I’ve never been to any Scandinavian countries, so I would love to go to that part of the world for their amazing traditional music scene and more importantly, their baked goods! I’m an avid home baker and my Danish friends always wax poetic about the butter and baked goods back home. And maybe this doesn’t count since I’ve been to India a few times, but I’ve never visited the north and I’m dying to see the ancient forts and palaces in Rajasthan.
One item you can’t leave home without when traveling? I recently got a pair of noise-canceling headphones and they have been total game-changers. A big part of touring is spending hours on loud planes and buses, which can be pretty taxing. I don’t know if it’s because I’m a musician and my ears are particularly sensitive, but when I wear my headphones, I’m not nearly as exhausted when I reach my destination.
Aisle or window? Definitely aisle. I hate bothering my seatmates if I need to get up in the middle of a flight.
Favorite childhood travel memory? I was 9, and I was with my family at a beach at dusk on the south shore of Prince Edward Island, where the ocean water is protected from the open sea and is quite warm. My brother and I were snorkeling when I came across a tiny stingray and I swam around in circles with it for a half-hour before it swam off. It felt like I had just had a conversation with a completely different creature.
Guilty pleasure when traveling? Sometimes I tour with my boyfriend, who’s a pianist, and he has a habit of stocking the car with gummy candy for long drives. I’ve been known to make a bag or two disappear.
Best travel tip? If you can manage it, go to someone’s home in a foreign country. I think sharing a warm drink, a meal, and conversation at someone’s table gives you the best sense of a place, far more than sightseeing ever could.