- 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 rudder 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 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 stops if possible; 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 £80 – £100 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 you wouldn’t swallow. Blocking the system will be a messy and expensive repair that we ask our guests to pick up the costs of. 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. If for some reason the tank is full during your holiday, pull up at the next marina and ask for a pump out. It will cost approximately £16.
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 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.
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. Our two boats are privately owned by members of the same family, one in Skipton, Yorkshire, and the other in Wootton Wawen, Warwickshire. Your experience hiring Blue Otter Skipton and meeting Ben will be different to picking up Blue Otter Wootton Wawen with Mark! Each boat and every adventure is unique to you.
However, whilst 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 airpilots tell us!) , its all in the rudder and it’s just a lot 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 turning 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. We 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 a holiday is a tough job! Packing for a narrowboat 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…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 2021 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!