With one boat in the Yorkshire Dales and another in Shakespeare’s home county of Warwickshire, our bespoke canal boat holidays invite you to slow down and enjoy life at 4mph. Explore beautiful countryside, discover places you never knew existed, journey off the beaten path and meander a leisurely course through the locks, under bridges, across aqueducts and visit picturesque towns, villages and country pubs along the way.


    We have two newly built boats to hire for short breaks of five nights, as well as canal routes requiring anywhere from one to four weeks. If you have been canal boating before and want a stylish narrowboat design, if you are thinking of getting your own boat, or if you used to have a boat and still want to cruise with a stylish choice, Blue Otter Boats offer all the comforts of home. Our boats don’t have “Hire Boat” written on the side, so you can pretend it’s yours for the time you’re on board.

    Bespoke Service

    Our boat managers are certified Inland Waterways Helmsman and we are flexible to cater to your journey requirements where possible. For complete newcomers to the canals, we will spend the first half day with you, or until you feel comfortable piloting the boat alone. 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.

    Lock Training

    You’ll receive instruction at the beginning of your boating holiday and we take you through your first locks. 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 and thereby 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 the boat is out of the lock, make sure all paddles and gates are closed. Watch this video from Canal and River Trust on how to operate a lock.

    Canal Heritage

    You’ll encounter engineering masterpieces such as the Bingley Five Rise staircase locks, through tunnels and cross over busy motorways or deep valleys via aqueducts. The modern canal system is a product of the 18th century and early 19th century. The Industrial Revolution demanded an economic way to transport goods and commodities in large quantities. The 3rd Duke of Bridgewater owned a number of coal mines in northern England in the 1760s, and he needed to transport his coal 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. Funded entirely by the Duke of Bridgewater,Britain’s first canal of the modern era is still called the Bridgewater Canal today.

Top of Bingley Five Rise Locks on the Leeds to Liverpool Canal. Top of Bingley Five Rise Locks on the Leeds to Liverpool Canal can be reached in one long day of cruising from Skipton.

View from the top of Bingley Five Rise Locks  – a 60ft drop of staircase locks on the Leeds to Liverpool Canal

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.