Experience the charm of canal life at 4 mph with Blue Otter Boats, where our bespoke narrowboat holidays invite you to unwind and savour a journey in the slow lane. With one boat nestled in the idyllic Yorkshire Dales and another in the heart of Shakespeare’s Warwickshire, immerse yourself in breathtaking countryside, uncover hidden gems, and follow tranquil waterways off the beaten path.

    Embark on a meandering adventure through locks, under bridges, and across aqueducts, pausing to explore picturesque towns, quaint villages, and inviting country pubs along the way.

    Choose from our fleet of two newly constructed boats for short breaks spanning five nights or opt for longer canal routes ranging from one to four weeks. Whether you’re a seasoned canal enthusiast seeking a stylish narrowboat design, contemplating boat ownership, or longing to relive past boating experiences, Blue Otter Boats offers all the comforts of home.

    Notably, our boats feature discreet designs without “Hire Boat” markings, allowing you to immerse yourself fully in the experience and imagine the vessel as your own during your time on board. Discover the allure of canal living with Blue Otter Boats — your gateway to unforgettable adventures on England’s tranquil waterways.

    Bespoke Service

    At Blue Otter Boats, our dedicated boat managers hold certifications as Inland Waterways Helmsmen, ensuring a safe and enjoyable journey for all. We prioritise flexibility to accommodate your specific journey requirements whenever feasible.

    For those new to navigating the canals, we offer personalised guidance to build confidence. Our experienced team will accompany you for the initial journey or until you feel at ease steering the boat independently.

    With the surge in television documentaries spotlighting boating, canals, and their rich history, canal exploration has become a popular choice for adventurers of all ages. While canal life embodies a slower pace, it promises an exhilarating outdoor experience.

    Across England’s inland waterways, locks punctuate the journey, adding an element of excitement and navigation skill to your canal adventure.

    Lock Training

    During the start of your boating holiday, you’ll receive comprehensive instruction tailored to your needs. We guide you through your initial lock experiences, a fundamental aspect of canal navigation.

    Locks function as water-based elevators, facilitating the movement of your narrowboat along the canal. Once safely positioned within the lock and the gates are secured, you’ll operate paddles to regulate water flow, raising or lowering the boat accordingly.

    An essential precaution is to maintain a clear distance from the white line cill marker, ensuring the safety of your boat’s stern. Upon exiting the lock, diligent closure of all paddles and gates is imperative to ensure smooth navigation.

    Watch this video from Canal and River Trust on how to operate a lock.

    Canal Heritage

    Whichever canal you choose, the journey will be filled with engineering marvels, such as the iconic landmarks like the Bingley Five Rise staircase locks, captivating tunnels, and breathtaking aqueducts spanning busy motorways and deep valleys.

    The modern canal system, a testament to 18th and early 19th-century ingenuity, emerged during the Industrial Revolution to meet the demand for efficient transportation of goods and commodities. Faced with the need to transport coal from his northern England mines to the burgeoning industrial hub of Manchester, the 3rd Duke of Bridgewater commissioned engineer James Brindley.

    Brindley’s visionary design included the construction of an aqueduct to carry the canal over the River Irwell. This pioneering endeavor, funded solely by the Duke of Bridgewater, gave rise to Britain’s first modern canal, now known as the Bridgewater Canal. Today, when cruising around Bridgewater you can moor-up directly outside the Royal Horticulture Society Bridgewater Gardens.


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.