- Blue Otter boat hires in Yorkshire and Warwickshire average £170 – £260 per night – varying between low and high season. There are cheaper options available, but Blue Otter boats are fitted out like a live-on-board with a high quality lifestyle in mind.
- We hire our boats out at a minimum 4 nights in Warwickshire, and 5 nights in Yorkshire. Most people hire for 7 nights, some for two or three weeks.
- We don’t offer day boat hire, but there are plenty of other boat hire companies that do allow you to dip your toes in the water (pun intended) with a 9am – 4pm teaser cruise
- Fuel – no extra charge. You’ll start cruising with a full tank included in the price, which is sufficient for 3-4 weeks of cruising. Narrow boat fuel tanks typically hold 200 litres. Engine consumption is around 1 litre per hour of cruising and you can cruise between 8am and 8pm along the canals
- Mooring – £0 (see section on mooring advice) visitor moorings are free. The permitted length of stay varies on location, but generally allow for 2-3 days per mooring site.
- Food – £30–£300 depending on whether you’re cooking onboard or eating out all week.
- Fresh water – £0 there are free taps along the canal that hook up to a water hose (also included on board) for free and safe drinking water.
- Bedding and showering? £0 – You’ll find bedding, towels, a gas oven, fridge, pots, pans, cooking utensils and crockery on board. All our canal boats have central heating. Toilets are fully flushing toilets and showers are fed by the boat’s hot water tank.
- Canal activities – £0, even for passage-assisted locks such as the Bingley Five Rise on the Leeds Liverpool Canal
- Low season (ca 15th March to 30th April) – narrow boats start from £170 per night
- High-mid season (1st May to 21st July) – narrow boats start from £200 per night
- High season (22nd July to 31st August) – narrow boats start from £260 per night
- Low-mid season (1st September to 31st October & end of November season permitting) – narrow boats start from £170 per night
- Connect with other people
- Be physically active
- Learn new skills
- Give to others
- Be present
- You won’t need to worry about kitchen utensils and our boats equip you with essentials such as tea, coffee and special treats.
- You will ALWAYS have a great view. So moor up whenever the mood takes you, put the kettle on or uncork the wine, get the foldable chairs out and settle in to observe what’s around you.
- Your narrowboat will be practical AND beautiful, we don’t accept style over substance or vice versa! Our Skipton boat ideal for couples has a traditional feel to it with the extra touch of sparkling blue granite kitchen tops. Our Wootton Wawen boat, ideal for two couples or a family, is longer at 60ft, and has an airy, contemporary look.
- We don’t just ask you to watch a video on how to go through a lock and give you the keys. We go out with you for the first couple of hours, teaching you the ropes – literally – from steering, navigating bridges, going through locks, mooring up and, importantly, how to turn around so you can return! We invest time in your holiday from the beginning so that you can feel at ease and confident for the whole time you’re on holiday.
- Unlike other hire boats, we don’t mention “Hire Boat” on our boat signage. As such, it looks like a privately owned boat. Our guests tell us this makes a difference as to how they are treated by other boat owners…usually with a greater amount of respect and immediate comraderie!
- Our engines are serviced regularly, the bottoms are blackened every two years, insurance, gas safety certificates updated and registered with Visit England’s ‘We’re Good to Go’ kitemark of safety through the pandemic, so all you have to worry about is the itinerary.
- Memories you make on a Blue Otter Boat will blow other holiday memories out of the water (excuse the pun, but it’s what our customers have said! We’re just sharing their words 😉 )
- You steer from the stern, with an axel in the centre, and push the tiller in the opposite direction from that in which you want to go. So right to go left, and left to go right.
- There is no brake. To slow down you have to put the boat in reverse and account for the fact that the boat will not stop straightaway. The boats weigh around 15 tonne, hence the reaction comes with a slight time delay.
- Keep right please! When meeting other on-coming boats, pass port-to-port. That doesn’t mean you exchange a tipple of port, but that the port (left) sides of the boats pass, i.e. keep to the right-hand side of the canal and you’ll be fine.
- Watch your speed! It sounds silly when you can only go slow but, even at 4mph you can create a wake that disturbs the habitat nesting on the canal banks. And when you pass moored boats, you need to be in the lowest tick-over gear possible. If not, the boat dwellers will soon tell you off for rocking their boat! You’re on holiday, remember…it’s all about slowing down and enjoying the view!
- Remember that some of the items on the boat might be loose – you don’t want cupboards to come open and all your porridge oats to spill out! So don’t leave any cups and plates on the kitchen tops, and avoid sudden bumps into the canal bank; the boat is made of steel and will survive, the mugs might not!
- Toot your horn! Before you cruise around a bend, or under a tight bridge where can’t see through the other side, make sure you a) let oncoming boats know you’re coming through b) are ready to go into reverse to slow down if you meet a boat!
- The actual hire cost. The costs of each boat are clearly displayed when you select your dates on the individual boat page with our booking agent, Hoseasons;
- It’s cheaper in Spring and Autumn, so consider these times if you’re on a budget;
- Boat Accident Insurance – fully included; for personal injury cover, we recommend you take out insurance before coming onboard
- Additional day-time pilots – no extra cost; Some guests arrange for friends to join them for a day, especially when there are lots of bridges and locks to navigate, where an extra pair of hands and feet are a welcome addition. You also get to show off just how profficient you are in boat-handling!
- Onboard inclusions – Each boat has bedding and towels for the week. If in doubt, check out our What’s on Board page.
- Refundable security deposit – £150. This will be required in a sealed envelope and left with the boat owners just before you leave trip and returned when you bring the boat back, provided of course nothing has been damaged.
- Fuel – you will pick up the boat with a full tank and this should last you for 2 weeks. A typical refuel might cost between £50 – £80 to fill to the brim, which you will only need to do if renting the boat for longer than 2 weeks.
- Toilet pump-out – the toilets on our boats are fitted with a macerator and a pump-out system. The key thing to remember is that this is not a normal plumping, and while robust, it’s also delicate. Basically, besides toilet paper, the macerator can only handle anything that your own body could process. That means no wetwipes, sanitory towels or other items that your body couldn’t process either. Blocking the system will be a messy and expensive repair that we ask our guests to pick up the costs for. You will pick up the boat with an empty tank, and unless cruising for longer than a week, you won’t need to worry about it. Should the tank require emptying during your holiday, pull up at the next marina and ask for a “pump out”. They’ll do it for you and it will cost approximately £16-£20.
What Happens If There’s An Emergency?
Our boats are insured fully comprehensively and Blue Otter Boats is a gold member of River Canal Rescue – the AA equivalent of the aqua highways – and this includes breakdown cover. So you don’t have to worry about getting stuck in the middle of nowhere trying to thumb a lift to the next marina! You will also have a number for the boat owner who will do everything they can to assist you from the other end of the phone too.
Luxlife Award for Blue Otter Boats
Not everyone can claim to be Nauti and Nice at the same time, but if Luxlife Magazine says so, who are we to disagree?
We are delighted to have received this recognition from the inaugural Nautical Tourism Awards 2022 as Best Canal Boat Holiday Experience – England!
On the magazine awards page during the review period from July to October this year, the editors said, “We are undertaking a comprehensive review of the market in order to drive nominees for the Nautical Tourism Awards 2022, it is an open entrance programme, where nominees can be as involved as they choose, and winners are determined on merits as opposed to popularity or size.
“In scrutinizing our shortlist and determining the winners, we focus on a range of factors such as performance, ratings, customer feedback and testimonials, usability and market position, we do not simply let the company’s size or budget determine their success. We are passionate about rewarding those who truly deserve recognition for their outstanding efforts.”
We would like to thank all our Blue Otter Boat guests for their reviews on our booking agent page at Hoseasons, as well as engagement on our social media pages across facebook, instagram, LinkedIn, google and twitter. All feedback is welcomed and we constantly strive to improve our service and keep the boating experience fresh.
Discover life in the slow lane, as you meander through countryside, town and city.
Canal holidays are a relaxing way to discover England, explore heritage sites and simply get away from it all with a countryside retreat on the move. With a boat on the Leeds to Liverpool Canal in Skipton and another on the Stratford Canal in Wootton Wawen, our objective is to ensure you have a relaxing, safe and memorable canal holiday. Some of our guests are first time boaters while others are seasoned travellers along England’s water highways. If it’s your first time, we’ll go with you through the first swing bridges and locks until you feel confident to go it alone.
2022 marks our fourth year of operations. During that time we have been faced with operational challenges from droughts restricting boating movement, canal closures due to sudden lock failures, to pandemic-induced lockdowns and new hiring proceedures. Guest safety and enjoyment of the canals has been of paramount importance to us from day one, so we are particularly delighted to be recognised for providing an excellent holiday experience.
A selection of comments left in the onboard guest book over the years.
Striving for Excellence
Blue Otter Boats are in the Starboard collection of Hoseasons, where boating enthusiasts are invited to “Experience our first class fleet of contemporary and stylish boats; you’ll get heads turning.” Contributing to our award-winning canal boat holiday experience, we only accept bookings through our agent Hoseasons, as this offers our guests an additional peace of mind that their holiday is protected.
Adapting to the challenges over the years we have introduced static stays during drought periods, enhanced cleaning procedures during the pandemic – many of which are still in place today – as well as signing up to the VisitEngland ‘We’re Good to Go‘ safetyl kitemark and World Travel and Tourism Council ‘Safe Travels‘ schemes.
Announcing the awards in November 2022, LuxLife Magazine stated, “There have been huge changes within the travel and tourism industry over the past few years. As we all know, there has been a sweeping impact upon the businesses offering breathtaking adventures and luxurious services within the travel and tourism environment.
This year we are proud to showcase companies breathing life back into the industry, whilst fulfilling our wants and needs for opulent, sustainable, and stunning facilities, services, yachts, or boats that truly leave us in awe.”
We look forward to welcoming new guests and some familiar returning faces to our boats in Skipton and Wootton Wawen.
Thank you for your continued support, it really is greatly appreciated.
HIRING A NARROW BOAT
Remember your 2019 holiday? It probably involved long airport queues (still happens), crammed flights (that too) , all-inclusive hotels (now with alcohol limits), and watered down cocktails by a pool crowded with excitable children.
Over the last two years British holidaymakers have discovered the ease, fun and relaxation of travel on England’s canals. Lockdowns had many of us craving freedom and, with limited options available, new discoveries were made – such as cruising the aqua highways in your very own floating home.
Whether you’re considering a slow adventure or looking to try before you commit to buying your very own boat – renting a narrow boat has never been more appealing. But how much does it actually cost to hire one?
When planning your trip, there are a few things to consider when it comes to adding up the cost of hiring a canal boat.
How much does it cost to hire a Blue Otter Narrow Boat for a week?
(The budget below is based on a couple or small family)
Does the time of year affect the cost of your narrow boat hire?
When planning any trip, deciding when to go does affect the pricing. All seasons have their appeal and not one is right for all but different times of the year do see price fluctations, as with any flight and holiday.
Low Season – the canal cruising season for Blue Otter opens in March, which marks the low season until end of April
Peak season – rates rise from May until September
Low-mid season – rates drop again through October and November
All enquiries go through our booking agent Hoseasons. We do not accept direct bookings so that in cases of illness, last minute cancellations are protected. Click here for Skipton (couples) and here for Wootton Wawen (families) to check availability and pricing for your exact dates.
Spring, Summer and Autumn offer different surprises along the canal. Wildlife awakens throughout April with ducklings, cygnets and goslings learning to swim. Lambs flank the banks and Spring blossoms appear. Bluebells and wild garlic herald the transition into warmer days.
In Summer the kingfishers are darting through the reeds, sunshine and al fresco dining to glorious sunsets aren’t a guarantee in the UK, but when the weather is fine, the views are stunning.
In Autumn the leaves turn golden it’s time to enjoy a warm cider or mulled wine with a view.
When are the seasons and how does the cost of narrow boat hire fluctuate?
How much does it cost for an overnight stay?
Arguably one of the most important parts of planning your trip is the location. One thing renting a narrow boat gives you is freedom. The ability to go wherever your heart and mood takes you. From wild mooring spots at no extra cost to maintained private marinas – the cost can vary per night.
Most of our guests stay on the moorings along the towpath and managed by Canal Rivers Trust not requiring any extra fees.
Do you need to book moorings in advance?
The towpath visitor moorings are management by the Canal Rivers Trust. Each one varies depending on the location and popularity of the mooring, but generally no advance bookings are required. The towpath signs will inform how long you are permitted to stay there – usually anywhere between 24 hours and 7 days.
Outside of the official visitor moorings and private land, where possible and attractive…and the mood takes you…you can moor up anywhere and legally stay for a maximum of 14 days.
For private moorings and marinas, it’s always wise to call ahead and enquire about availability and price. These usually begin from £8 upwards, more if there is an electric hook-up and shower facilities.
How many of you will there be?
No matter what your group size. Whether you’re travelling as a couple on Blue Otter Skipton or with a family on Blue Otter Wotton Wawen, where the sofa turns into a bed for the kids or another couple, we have a narrow boat suitable for you. Most would assume the larger the narrow boat, the higher the price, and whilst this isn’t always the case, it’s definitely something to factor in.
Make sure you check the number of berths is suitable to your group size before booking.
How much does it cost to eat and drink on a narrow boat?
Our boats have cooking facilities with gas ovens and there is always an option to eat in to keep the costs down. Cooking in a narrow boat is a whole new and fun experience on it’s own. You’ll find mooring along a valley, in a woodland or at the bottom of a lock will inspire you more to whip up a delicious meal to compliment the view.
If you’re on a budget, we recommend you plan your meals beforehand. On arrival at your starting point, stock up the cupboards with your own weekly shop, supporting the local producers. For those with a higher budget, you may be looking to eat out more regularly, whether it is at one of the numerous canal side pubs or a top star restaurant along the way.
How much do activities cost on a narrow boat holiday?
Life on the canals is all about enjoying the beauty of life in the slow lane. You’ll be cruising at a maximum of 4mph, and cruising for up to eight hours a day. Many cruise just for a couple of hours between towns, moor up, find a pub and beer garden, and get to know the towns intimately.
Much of the fascination along the canals are the engineering feats such as the Bingley Five Rise Locks on the Leeds Liverpool Canal, traversing over aqueducts, under bridges and opening bridges. All of these are at no extra costs, other than a little elbow grease.
You can also plan your cruising around hiking routes and generally exploring, in which case it’s unlikely you’ll need a big budget for activities. Narrow boat holidays encourage you to spend more time outside in nature, and the slow pace makes it a perfect opportunity to get the camera out and do some wildlife spotting! There is also a lot to be said for mooring up, and enjoy quality time on the bow with your favourite book or going for a run along the towpath.
What will I need to bring on my narrow boat holiday?
As little as possible. Here at Blue Otter, we pretty much have you covered when it comes to the essentials.
The Health Benefits of Being By Water
Be it a canal, a lake or an ocean, scientists are quantifying the positive cognitive and physical effects of water and why it induces a meditative state that makes us happier, healthier, calmer, more creative, and more capable of awe.
Many a scribe, poet, painter, and sailor have attested to the feeling of wellness and joy when they’re in, or near, water. Albert Einstein had his most important realisations while sailing—water taught him physics principles, and though he wasn’t much of a sailor, he spent as much time as possible in a boat.
In 1908, when Kenneth Graham wrote his classic novel ‘The Wind in the Willows’, he already knew then about the benefits of boating. Ratty informs Mole, “Believe me, my young friend, there is nothing – absolutely nothing – half so much worth doing as simply messing about in boats.”
More recent research, coined Blue Mind Science—the study of aquatic environments’ health benefits – has revealed that being around water could offer the natural cure for your stress, anxiety, anger or general mood swings.
One thing the world can agree on, the pandemic has taken it’s toll on us all; lockdowns, quarantine, isolation and travel restrictions have amplified the importance of looking after our mental well-being and for this, many of us have taken to the therapeutic vistas of the great outdoors.
In addition to water’s natural therapeutic effect, we thought we’d share the National Health Service’s recommended five steps to mental well-being, and explain just how a Blue Otter narrowboat cruise can help provide you with that all important daily dose of joy.
5 steps to mental wellbeing
When you are on a narrowboat everybody waves from the towpath and don’t be surprised when complete strangers call out with a cheery ‘Hello’. According to the NHS, connecting with other people helps you to improve your well-being by sharing positive experiences.
A narrowboat holiday presents the perfect opportunity to get away from it all…and meet new people through new experiences. Simply passing the time of day with a pedestrian on the towpath when opening a bridge, chatting with a lock-keeper or spending quality time with people in a more relaxed environment can be just the tonic to give your mental well-being a boost.
A relaxing holiday doesn’t necessarily translate to being lazy. Canal holidays require tiller work, hopping on and off the boat to open swing bridges, working the locks, all while savouring the views and then mooring up wherever the mood takes you.
Canals also intersect with hiking routes, such as The Pennine Way in Gargrave, Yorkshire, so you can spend a day exploring the Yorkshire Dales or hiking a hill before heading back to your floating home.
With Blue Otter Boats we give all our first-time guests full tuition on boat handling, spending the first few hours literally teaching them the ropes. From how to pilot a boat, navigate bridge openings, traverse the locks and the mechanics of lock paddles, to mooring up for the night.
We only leave our guests to go it alone when they feel confident with the new skills they’ve acquired. A strong wind can play havoc, especially when you’re trying to navigate a series of bends. But that’s all part of the fun, and you’ll feel at ease when going through a series of locks, opening bridges and emerge out of dark tunnels smiling.
Random acts of kindness offer a sense of reward, purpose and enhance positive feelings. It doesn’t have to be a grand gesture, small acts of giving will help to improve well-being. Helping out a fellow boater at a lock or offering advice about narrowboat cruising, a tip about a shop or restaurant at the last town you cruised through, all these are hugely appreciated by boaters. Such is the sense of community on the liquid highways, it’s another reason why narrow boat cruising is good for your well-being.
And if you enjoy your canal holiday so much that you don’t want to stop there, The Canal & River Trust has a wide range of volunteering opportunities that also help you to connect with others, learn more skills, be physically active and give of your time – four ways to improve your well-being!
Paying more attention to the present moment, also known as mindfulness, has been shown to improve mental well-being. Canals are fascinating water highways, forming a network which offers travellers a glimpse into a very different way of life as it weaves it’s way 2000 miles across England’s landscape.
Long or short, straight or surprisingly bendy at times (our Skipton guests in particular enjoy a ‘Curly Whirly’ stretch of the Leeds to Liverpool canal between Gargrave and East Marton), canals transform your world into one where the top speed is 4 mph, often even slower. Taking the time to soak up your surroundings – the countryside, the wildlife, the old mills and the industrial history of the landscape – within minutes on board, you’ll see things differently.
It’s little wonder that The Canal & River Trust’s slogan is ‘Life’s better by water‘. The only thing you now need to worry about, is how to pack for your well-being holiday on the canals?
Canal boat holidays with Blue Otter Boats, what are they really like?
One thing is for sure, no trip on the canal is the same. You’ll meet different people, see different wildlife, encounter different challenges and moor up in different places. We have two boats, one in Skipton, Yorkshire, that’s ideal for couples, and the other in Wootton Wawen, Warwickshire, that’s perfect for families or two couples. Ifyou are hiring a boat for the first time, we do a thorough training of steering, mooring, navigating bridges and going through locks. We stay with you until you feel completely at ease.
Whilst our two boats differ in style, they both have central heating, hot water, shower, flushing toilet and a comfortable bed and the narrowboat experience will remain the same whether you are holidaying in Warwickshire or Yorkshire.
What have our customers said about us?
Both our boats have guest books on board where guests can leave personal notes, tips and advice from each trip. Through our booking agent Hoseasons, an online guest review is sent to boaters after their trip to rate their experience.
Here’s a sample from the last three submitted reviews on each boat in 2020.
Blue Otter Skipton, Yorkshire
Blue Otter Wootton Wawen, Warwickshire
I Want to Rent A Blue Otter Narrowboat – What Do I Need to Know?
So you think you want to hire out a self-drive narrowboat? If you’re reading this, you’ve probably either booked your first canal boat holiday, or you’re about to book one of our bespoke Blue Otter Boats and need a little reassurance you are going to enjoy your time on board as much as everyone says you will!
We’ve listed some of the main pointers to think about when you plan a narrowboat holiday for the first time.
Every good journey starts with a vague plan. We’ve seen guests arrive with a detailed itinerary mapped out to the minute on a spreadsheet and we’ve welcomed guests who haven’t really thought about it at all until they step onboard for the first time. You don’t have to have a plan, but it does help if you have an inclination of east or west before you set off. For example, from our base in Skipton, if the aim is to go east towards Saltaire and Leeds, you need to plan your arrival at Bingley Five Rise Locks around the lock-keepers operating times.
These plans will help you figure out where to moor overnight, whether you stop somewhere on the way out or of the way back. We provide navigation maps on board for whichever canal will be cruising along, and the boat owner will be able to share tips for both direction. Cruising at 4mph means the goal of slowing down is about as instant as it gets, as well as estimating how far you want to go on your canal boat holiday, or if you just want to go with the flow and decided day-by-day.
Top tip #1: remember to turn around half-way through your holiday, because it will take you the same amount of time to return to base!
How Easy are the Boats to Drive?
If this is the first time you’ll be taking your hands to the tiller…Don’t panic! Piloting a boat employs exactly the same principles as a piloting a plane, (so the airplane pilots we’ve had on board tell us!) , its all in the rudder and, thankfully, much smaller.
Our Blue Otter Wootton Wawen boat is 10ft longer than Blue Otter Skipton (50ft), which can make tight bends in the canal interesting for the first time boater, but that’s part of the adventure and trust us, it’s really difficult to do anything wrong.
We are more than happy to give you a crash course…. ok, perhaps not a crash course, but we’ll insist on showing you the ropes of how to pilot a boat when you pick it up. This includes how to steer, how to navigate through bridges, how to go through locks, mooring-up and, the all important 3-point turning around in so-called winding holes. We’ll spend the first few hours with you, until you feel at ease and comfortable to go it alone. We invest that time at the beginning of your holiday, so that you can truly relax and enjoy your time on board with us. Blue Otter Boats want boating to be as pleasureable as possible for you.
Six top tips for piloting a narrowboat for the first time are:
What Should I Take With Me?
Packing for any holiday is a tough job! Packing for a narrow boat holiday should be easier, because you need less items, but deciding what to leave out is the tricky part.
Over the years we’ve seen guests arrive with suitcase after suitcase…after suitcase. And then the grocery boxes start to be unloaded…box after box…after box…followed by the drinks crates. Our advice is to pack as little and light as possible. You really do have to decide between shoes and sacrifice two jackets for the sake of an extra pair of trousers because there is limited storage space and a bulky suitcase will take up a lot of room.
The best idea is to pre-pack in a soft holdall, and that bag will easily fold away when you unpack everything into your home on the water. We send you on your way with biscuits, tea, coffee, milk, some suprise snacks and the essentials for washing up and cleaning. Due to the Covid-19 safety precautions, we’ve had to remove our games and books, so you will need to bring those with you. There is a TV on board, but reception demands on your mooring spot, and the stations will need retuning with every new mooring location.
What are the Extra Costs?
At Blue Otter Boats, we’re an open book on costs and we don’t sneak in hidden extras. When you hire a narrowboat, costs can be broken down like this:
Opened in 1774 the Bingley Five Rise Locks are a bucket list experience for many a boater old and new to the canals.
A spectacular feature of the Leeds to Liverpool Canal this unique 5-rise staircase has a total rise of 60 feet. It can be reached with a full day (8hours) cruising day from Skipton, and are located just under half-way between Skipton and Leeds.
Staircase locks can be a head-scratching puzzle to navigate, but the good news is that the Bingley Five Rise locks are supervised by a lock keeper to help boaters on the descent and ascent. Only a few hundred yards downstream is another staircase – this time a 3-rise flight, with a fall of 30 feet, and the lock keepers will help boaters through these too.
Through the summer season, our guests can plan their journey thanks to the Canal & River Trust customer operations team, who will be on site to offer assisted passage through the locks to the following times.
Passages down the lock flights between 08:00-10:00, last entry at 09:00
(Mooring overnight is available at the top lock, ready for the first descent)
Passages up the lock flights between 10:00-12:00, last entry at 11:00.
Passages down the lock flight between 13:00-15:00, last entry at 14:00.
Passages up the lock flight between 15:00-17:00, last entry at 16:00.
These timings are to help ensure that the locks are available to as many customers as possible. Please note that the Lock keepers can use their discretion in quiet times to minimise disruption and ensure everyone can enjoy their visit.
As from 1st October, the last entry through these locks will be 3:00pm, due to the reduced daylight hours.
Whether it’s Spring, Summer or Autumn, traversing this magnificent feat of engineering design is a highlight of every Blue Otter Skipton cruise heading east to Saltaire and onwards to Leeds.
A 4-DAY ROUNDTRIP CRUISE FROM SKIPTON TO SALTAIRE TAKES IN NATIONAL TRUST ATTRACTIONS, BINGLEY FIVE RISE LOCKS AND A UNESCO HERITAGE TOWN
Begin your canal journey in the historic market town of Skipton, gateway to the Yorkshire Dales and home of the Blue Otter on the Leeds to Liverpool canal.
Cruise slowly past the moored boats of Skipton and within 20 minutes you’ll be at your first swing bridge, located on the edge of town next to the Rendezvous Hotel.
Some of these swing bridges can be difficult to open. If you do find yourself struggling, ask a passerby on the tow path to provide some extra strength. You’ll soon discover most folk you meet on the canals, be they trekkers or fellow boaters, will be happy to lend a hand.
Next up is the electric bridge in Lower Bradley. To avoid mistakes and traffic delays it’s important to read the instructions carefully before turning the key and closing the road to traffic. When you do, you’ll be impressed by the power at your fingertips and in no time at all, you’ll be back on board the Otter and the cruising continues.
Shortly after Lower Bradley you’ll pass through a swing bridge adjoining the Polish Airmen Memorial Site, there to honour the memory of seven brave Polish allies brought down in WWII.
History and the stunning vistas of Yorkshire and Lancashire continue to unravel as you pass two more swing bridges before entering Kildwick. It’s worth mooring up here to take a stroll around St Andrews, an impressive Anglo Saxon church once frequented by the Bronte sisters.
If you’re ready for lunch or just thirsty, check out the White Lion, a 17th century pub located behind St Andrews with open fires inside and a beer garden out the back.
By now you’ll be getting the hang of the swing and electric bridges and feeling at home with the sights and sounds of life on the canals. Ducks, swans and fellow boaters can be relied on to keep you company. Much less common are sightings of kingfishers as they dart in and out of the woods, almost skimming the surface of the canal before they disappear from sight. Stay alert and you might get lucky!
After working a few more bridges you’ll enter the larger town of Silsden. Like so many towns along the Leeds to Liverpool, industry came to Silsden via the canal. None of the mills still standing operate in their original form, though an increasing number are being renovated as office and living spaces.
Leaving Silsden the land becomes defined by steep slopes interspersed with thick woodland and country gardens, many of them left to grow wild.
Those interested in wild and fascinating buildings might like to moor up outside East Riddlesden Hall, a 17th century manor house now owned by the National Trust and open to the public.
Between enjoying the tearooms and walled gardens guests should keep an eye out for the reputed presence of ghosts in the Starkie Wing. Hidden away in the same wing are the infamous ‘hiding holes’, installed to safeguard Catholic Priests in the 17th century.
Perched on a plateau overlooking the River Aire, East Riddlesen Hall was the filming location for the 1992 film ‘Wuthering Heights’ and for series 8 of the paranormal TV program ‘Most Haunted’. You have been warned!
By the time you arrive at the top of Bingley Five Rise Locks you may well be ready to moor up for the evening. Choose your space and enjoy a sundowner above the rooftops and mill towers of Bingley. There are numerous bars and restaurants should you choose a night out on the town, alternatively, cook up your own feast aboard ‘the Otter’.
The locks are open from 8am till 5pm. Because of the complications involved in working a staircase lock, full time lock keepers from the Canal and River Trust will be there to help you traverse your way through, so all you’ll need to do is listen to their instructions to stay safe and enjoy a smooth transit.Built in 1774, the five rise locks are the steepest in the country and represent an impressive work of engineering. As such, they often attract a crowd of ‘gongoozlers’ – that’s ‘canal talk’ for describing people who peer into boats.
The ‘five rise’ are quickly followed by Bingley Three Rise Locks before the canal meanders through the leafy conurbation of Shipley, over an aqueduct crossing the River Aire before descending two more locks into Saltaire.
Built in 1851 by the industrialist Sir Titus Salt, the self-named Saltaire is worthy of its UNESCO Heritage title and well worth a good few hours of your time. Mill towers in pristine condition rise above this model Victorian village, interspersed with museums and concert halls, galleries, restaurants and parkland buzzing with activities. Salts Mill is a true hidden gem and home to a permanent David Hockney exhibition.
Illustrations by Ben Hopkins.
GUIDE TO DISTANCES
Skipton to Kildwick
Distance – one way: 4.5 miles | Locks: 0 | Time: 2 hours 30 minutes
Skipton to Silsden
Distance – one way: 6.5 miles | Locks: 0 | Time: 3 hours 30 minutes
Skipton to Riddlesden
Distance – one way: 10 miles| Locks: 0 | Time: 5 hours 30 minutes
Skipton to Bingley Five Rise Top Lock
Distance – one way: 12.5 miles | Locks: 0| Time: 6 hours 50 minutes
Skipton to Saltaire
Distance – one way: 15.5 miles | Locks: 11 | Time: 10 hours 15 minutes
RELAX AND ENJOY RURAL VIEWS, INDUSTRIAL-ERA HERITAGE, SUNLIGHT SPARKLING ON CALM WATERS AND BIRD LIFE CHORUSING YOUR CRUISE
With more than 2,000 miles of inland waterways across Great Britain, here are a few highlights that made us curious to explore the beauty of England’s canals. Taking a break from fast-paced office environment, life slows to a walking pace when cruising these beautiful flowing highways that were once packed with cargo vessels. If you’ve ever harboured a dream of a life afloat, a narrowboat is one of the sweetest spots to spend British summertime.
A Ring of Two Roses
A three week canal journey from Skipton can take you through the North and South Peninne’s breathtaking scenery. Drift through Yorkshire and Lancashire cities, open meadows, market towns, dramatic hillsides for a taster of this region’s diverse surroundings. On Blue Otter Skipton narrowboat you can take two of three trans-Pennine canals: the Leeds and Liverpool, and the Rochdale, in a journey of 220 locks over 175 miles.
Traversing the canals are a great way to experience the “backbone of England” and give a unique insight into contrasting urban settlements that reside around Leeds, Huddersfield, Manchester, Blackburn and Burnley. Time your cruising right, and you can take in some premier football league matches along the way.
A Bard Aboard
Explore centuries of English history along the Avon Ring, a circuit of 109 miles and 131 locks. Moor opposite the Swan Theatre in Stratford upon Avon, near picturesque mills on the River Avon, visit Tewkesbury, cruise the majestic River Severn to Worcester, then ascend the longest flight of locks in Britain on the Worcester & Birmingham canal. Blue Otter Wootton Wawen is perfectly positioned to take you on all of these canal routes.
Shakespeare’s presence lures narrowboaters along the waters with a mile-long tunnel leading to the Stratford upon Avon canal. Here a real treat awaits along the longest aqueduct on the English canals, Edstone. If you time it for when the Shakespeare’s Express steam train is passing, a cloak of smoky steam will magically surround you, while passengers wave from cream and brown-liveried carriages.
Home to the best-preserved 19th-century docks in Britain, Gloucester is surrounded by listed warehouses. This inland harbour was once busy with ships carrying timber and corn from around the world. Cargo was transhipped on to the Severn and then the canals.
Cruise on your narrowboat from the historic docks and stop where the mood takes you, but be sure to take in Worcester Cathedral and the Norman abbey at Tewkesbury as you mosey down the water highway.
Cruise the Canals
Blue Otter narrowboats are available for week-long or month-long rental, enabling you to journey far and wide along the English canal network. Just contact us with your request with when and how you envisage your time on board relaxing and enjoying rural views, industrial-era heritage, sunlight sparkling on calm waters and bird life chorusing your cruise. Take turns piloting the boat, operating locks and swing bridges – rewarded with a refreshment or brew on board after each busy section! Locks are a great opportunity for sharing tips from fellow boaters and canal banter. Either way, lazy afternoons with a tipple of choice in hand are always a good idea!