- 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.
Exploring the Historic Stratford Canal
The Stratford Canal, a historical waterway in the heart of England, weaves through picturesque landscapes and offers a unique perspective on the country’s industrial and cultural heritage. One of the most enchanting stretches of this canal starts from the charming village of Wootton Wawen.
Origins and Historical Significance
The Stratford Canal, constructed in the early 19th century, was born out of the industrial revolution’s demands for efficient transportation of goods and raw materials. The canal was authorised by an Act of Parliament in 1793 and completed in 1816, connecting the Grand Union Canal at Kings Norton to the River Avon in Stratford-upon-Avon. Its construction brought significant economic benefits, as it facilitated the transportation of goods between the Midlands and the River Avon.
The canal played a vital role in the transportation of coal, iron, and other heavy materials, powering the region’s industries. However, with the rise of the railway system in the mid-19th century, the canal gradually lost its commercial importance, but its leisure and recreational value have only grown stronger over the years.
Casting off from Wootton Wawen
Wootton Wawen, a picturesque village located in Warwickshire, serves as an excellent starting point for your journey along the Stratford Canal. The village is steeped in history, boasting a magnificent church, St. Peter’s, dating back to the 12th century, and the beautiful Wootton Hall, a Grade I listed country house. Before setting sail, take some time to explore these local gems, and perhaps grab some refreshments from one of the traditional pubs nearby.
Canal Features and Engineering Marvels
As you set off from Wootton Wawen, you’ll immediately notice the charm of the Stratford Canal. Its narrow, tree-lined waterway exudes a sense of tranquility and nostalgia, making it an ideal escape from the bustling modern world. The canal is a prime example of engineering brilliance, with well-maintained locks, humpback bridges, and towpaths showcasing the ingenuity of the early canal builders.
One of the remarkable features of the canal is the “Lapworth Flight,” a series of 26 locks spread across a short stretch, providing a fascinating navigational challenge for boaters. Watching these locks in action can be mesmerizing, as water levels rise and fall to facilitate the smooth passage of boats.
Scenic Landscapes and Wildlife
The Stratford Canal’s idyllic surroundings make it a favorite destination for nature lovers and photographers. As you travel along the waterway, you’ll be treated to stunning vistas of rolling hills, meadows adorned with wildflowers, and tranquil woodlands that change hues with the seasons. The area is a haven for wildlife, with numerous bird species, butterflies, and even the occasional deer making appearances along the towpath.
The canal is also lined with charming cottages, many of which have been lovingly restored, adding to the picturesque appeal of the waterway. Be sure to capture these moments on camera as you journey along, creating lasting memories of your trip.
Historic Sites and Cultural Attractions
The Stratford Canal’s route is dotted with historic sites and cultural attractions, offering opportunities for enriching experiences. As you approach Stratford-upon-Avon, you’ll encounter Mary Arden’s Farm, the childhood home of William Shakespeare’s mother. This living museum takes you back in time, offering insight into the rural life of the 16th century.
Upon reaching Stratford-upon-Avon, a town steeped in Shakespearean history, you can explore the world-renowned Royal Shakespeare Theatre and visit the Bard’s birthplace. The town’s charming streets are lined with Tudor-style buildings and inviting cafes, making it a delightful place to wander around.
The Stratford Canal from Wootton Wawen presents a captivating journey through time and nature. Its historical significance, engineering marvels, and scenic landscapes combine to create an unforgettable experience. From the peaceful village of Wootton Wawen to the cultural hub of Stratford-upon-Avon, this canal journey offers a glimpse into England’s rich heritage and the beauty of its countryside.
Whether you are an avid boater, a history enthusiast, a nature lover, or simply seeking a peaceful escape, the Stratford Canal is sure to leave you with cherished memories and a deeper appreciation for England’s inland waterway treasures. So, set sail from Wootton Wawen and let the Stratford Canal enchant you with its charm and allure. Happy boating!
Exploring the Historic Leeds Liverpool Canal
Nestled in the picturesque Yorkshire Dales, the charming town of Skipton is home to one of the most captivating waterways in England – the Leeds Liverpool Canal. This historic canal stretches over 127 miles, connecting two of the country’s most vibrant cities – Leeds and Liverpool.
Skipton plays a pivotal role along this waterway, offering visitors an enchanting blend of natural beauty, rich history, and a serene escape from the hustle and bustle of modern life. Delve into the fascinating history of the Leeds Liverpool Canal, explore the delights of Skipton’s waterside attractions, and discover why this picturesque route has become a cherished destination for locals and tourists alike.
The Birth of the Leeds Liverpool Canal
The idea of connecting the bustling industrial hubs of Leeds and Liverpool with a waterway had been brewing since the late 18th century. The transportation of goods and raw materials was a significant challenge at the time, and a canal seemed like the perfect solution to facilitate trade and economic growth.
The construction of the Leeds Liverpool Canal began in 1770, and it took almost 46 years to complete, with numerous engineering feats and obstacles overcome during the process.
Engineering Marvels Along the Canal
The construction of the canal demanded several engineering marvels, including the construction of locks, aqueducts, and tunnels. One of the notable feats is the Bingley Five Rise Locks, located within two days cruising from Skipton. These five consecutive locks elevate the canal by an impressive 60 feet, making it one of the steepest sets of locks in the United Kingdom. Watching the intricate mechanics of the locks in action is a sight to behold, as water rushes in and out to raise or lower boats from one level to the next.
Another remarkable engineering wonder is the Foulridge Tunnel, just west of Skipton. This 1,640-yard long tunnel posed significant challenges during construction due to the difficult terrain. However, it became an essential link in connecting the eastern and western sections of the canal, and today, it is a fascinating attraction, allowing visitors to experience a journey back in time as they cruise through its dark, mysterious depths.
The Canal’s Economic Impact
The Leeds Liverpool Canal played a pivotal role in transforming the economic landscape of the regions it traversed. Skipton, being a vital stop along the route, experienced a surge in trade and commerce. 250 years ago, on 8th April 1773, two canal barges loaded with coal set off from Bingley to Skipton, where the coal was sold at half the price previously charged. They were the first boats to carry goods on the Leeds & Liverpool Canal.
The canal facilitated the transportation of goods such as coal, textiles, and limestone, which spurred industrial growth in the area. Skipton’s industries flourished, and the town became a prosperous center of trade, attracting more residents and businesses to its banks.
In the mid-18th century the growing towns of Yorkshire, including Leeds, Wakefield and Bradford, were trading increasingly. Bradford merchants wanted to increase the supply of limestone to make lime for mortar and agriculture using coal from Bradford’s collieries and to transport textiles to the Port of Liverpool.
On the west coast, traders in the busy port of Liverpool wanted a cheap supply of coal for their shipping and manufacturing businesses and to tap the output from the industrial regions of Lancashire. Inspired by the effectiveness of the wholly artificial navigation, the Bridgewater Canal opened in 1759–60. A canal across the Pennines linking Liverpool and Hull (by means of the Aire and Calder Navigation) would have obvious trade benefits.
International and Local Trading
Canals are our industrial heritage, originally designed to transport goods for miles and help deliver Wedgewood pottery in one piece. But it was the incoming goods that had the greatest impact on the Leeds-Liverpool Canal – changing the towns, villages and landscape forever.
8 international trading influences the canal had on the region
1) The link to Hull brought timber from the Baltic for beams, trusses and floorboards
2) Iron came from the forges at Kirkstall, near Leeds, and the foundries at Low Moor and Bowling in Bradford to the nail makers of Silsden and the machine makers in Keighley
3) Coal arrived by the ton from collieries on the edge of Bradford to supplement that produced from small local pits.
4) Wool for worsted spinning came along the waterways from Lincolnshire and once woven into cloth was exported through Hull
5) Luxury goods such as wine from Portugal came in huge casks called pipes that held 130 gallons.
6) Olive oil, for lighting and for industrial use, also came in pipes from Gallipoli in Turkey and Leghorn (Lugarno) in Italy.
7) Groceries such as oranges, lemons, currants and raisins arrived in light casks called hogsheads.
8) Warehouses were built at Riddlesden, Silsden, Kildwick and Skipton and freight companies employed local agents to act on their behalf.
Modern Day Leisure and Recreation on the Canal
With the advent of modern transportation methods, the commercial importance of the canal diminished over the years. However, the legacy of the Leeds Liverpool Canal was far from forgotten. The serene waters and scenic beauty attracted recreational boaters, walkers, and cyclists, transforming the canal into a delightful destination for leisure activities.
Boating enthusiasts can rent narrowboats from Blue Otter and Pennine Cruisers in Skipton to cruise along the canal at a leisurely pace. The slow and peaceful journey allows travellers to relish the beauty of the surrounding countryside, spotting wildlife, and enjoying the ever-changing vistas. Day boats are availble from Pennine Cruisers, five or seven night self-drive cruises can be booked with Blue Otter and full boat-handling training is given on arrival.
The Canal and Skipton’s Tourism
The Leeds Liverpool Canal has significantly contributed to Skipton’s tourism industry. Tourists from all over the UK and beyond are drawn to the area’s tranquil charm and historical significance. Boat enthusiasts and bucket-list travellers come from New Zealand, Canada, Brazil and Germany to travese England’s longest canal and arrive in the UNESCO World Heritage Town of Saltaire by boat. Skipton, often referred to as the “Gateway to the Dales,” is a vibrant market town steeped in history. Visitors can moor their boats and take a leisurely stroll through the cobbled streets, discovering charming shops, traditional pubs, and the imposing medieval fortress – Skipton Castle.
Many tourists come to Skipton to experience the canal either with day boat hire or a longer holiday on a narrowboat. The canal-side has flourished with quaint cafes, restaurants, and traditional pubs, providing visitors with a taste of local cuisine and a chance to relax by the waterside. While the journey along the canal itself is a delight, there’s also much to explore beyond the waterways. For those seeking to explore the wider area, the Yorkshire Dales National Park beckons with its stunning landscapes, picturesque villages, and countless walking and hiking trails. Whether you opt for a short walk or a more challenging trek along the Pennine Way that connects with the canal at Gargrave, the Dales offer a diverse range of experiences.
The Leeds Liverpool Canal, with Skipton at its heart, stands as a living testament to the ingenuity and vision of the past. As one of the longest and most historically significant canals in England, it continues to captivate visitors with its tranquil waters, lush surroundings, and rich heritage.
Skipton’s enchanting waterside attractions, along with the engineering marvels of the canal, offer a delightful escape into a bygone era. Whether cruising along its peaceful waters, exploring the walking trails around the canal, or simply savoring the scenic beauty, a journey along the Leeds Liverpool Canal around Skipton is an experience not to be missed.
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.
In the words of our guests
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!
No previous experience is required. We provide full training on arrival and go with you for the first few hours until you feel comfortable to go it alone.
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.
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!