Blue Otter Boats Ltd is a newly-established canal boat hire fleet based at the gateways to the Yorkshire Dales and to Shakespeare’s home in Warwickshire. Our bespoke canal boat holidays invite you to slow down and enjoy life at 4mph, taking in the beautiful countryside and discovering places you never knew existed. Journey off the beaten path and meander along a leisurely course through the locks, under bridges, across aqueducts and enjoy the pretty towns, villages and country pubs along the way.


    We have two newly built boats to hire for short breaks of three or four nights or holidays of a week or longer. If you have done canal boating before yet don’t want a bench-by-day bed-by-night narrowboat design, if you are thinking of getting your own boat, or if you used to have a boat and still want to cruise for a week or more, Blue Otter Boats offer all the comforts of home. While ideal for experienced boaters, we can offer bespoke canal boat holiday experiences, including one-way hires. For complete newcomers to the canals, we will spend the first half day with you, or until you feel comfortable piloting the boat alone. Our boat managers are certified Inland Waterways Helmsman and we are flexible to cater to your journey requirements where possible. 


    Recent years have seen a flurry of television documentaries on boating, canals and the history of their making. Exploring England by canal is now a popular holiday choice with young and old, and although it’s definitely life in the slow lane, a canal boat holiday is an outdoor adventure. Most of England’s inland waterways have locks to navigate through.

    You’ll receive instruction at the beginning of your boating holiday and will be accompanied through your first lock. Essentially, locks are like lifts that carry your narrowboat up or down a canal so that you can continue cruising. Once your narrowboat is safely inside the lock and the gates are closed, you open paddles in the lock gate to let water pass either into or out of the lock to raise or lower the boat. The most important aspect to watch out for, is to keep your stern clear of the white line cill marker. Once exited, make sure all paddles and gates are closed.

    You’ll encounter engineering masterpieces as you journey through staircase locks, traverse through tunnels and the often-surreal experience of crossing busy motorways or deep valleys via aqueducts. The modern canal system was largely a product of the 18th century and early 19th century. The Industrial Revolution demanded an economic and reliable way to transport goods and commodities in large quantities. It was the 3rd Duke of Bridgewater, who owned a number of coal mines in northern England, that wanted a reliable way to transport his coal in the 1760s to the nearby city of Manchester, which was rapidly industrialising. He commissioned the engineer James Brindley to build a canal that included an aqueduct carrying the canal over the River Irwell – an engineering wonder which immediately attracted tourists.

    The construction of this canal was funded entirely by the Duke of Bridgewater and is still called the Bridgewater Canal today. It opened in 1761 and is often considered to be the first canal of the modern era to be built in Britain that captured the imagination and inspired further canals.

    Take a short video journey on the Leeds to Liverpool Canal with Blue Otter Skipton.

    View from the top of Bingley Five Rise Locks

    A Blue Otter Boats holiday is the perfect way to relax and enjoy the company of friends or family, while discovering the waterways as a delightful way of exploring England. Our canal home bases in Skipton and Wootton Wawen have excellent links to Manchester and Birmingham airports and our moorings are only a short walk or taxi journey from both rail and coach stations. Car parking facilities are also available in both locations.