I had no idea driving a boat would be so much fun. For my Dad’s birthday I surprised him with a trip to Skipton, to drive a narrowboat for the day, hired from Pennine Cruisers.
We’ve never done anything like it before, so I wasn’t sure what to expect, but I can highly recommend it if you are looking for a fun day out with a difference.
Pennine Cruisers is a family-run company based in North Yorkshire, on the picturesque Leeds and Liverpool Canal.
There isn’t a ripple of the water the family don’t know and they provide everything you need, whether you are an absolute beginner, like us, or an experienced boater.
On arrival, we were given an expert boat-handling instruction on the simple controls on one of their six day boats, so we could head out for the day with total confidence.
The kids loved putting on their life jackets and climbing onboard. My kids are only young too – my four year old was just desperate to help and my 16 month old just loved exploring.
I’d say it’s a trip where the more is the merrier, because it’s not actually as easy as it looks.
Driving the boat is one thing, but when you’ve got bridges to open before you can pass through it’s literally all hands on deck.
Ideally you need a driver, someone to jump off and operate the bridges and then a third person to jump off and tie the boat up once you’ve passed through the bridge while you wait for the person operating the bridge.
First up for us was a swing bridge – we had been warned if we took too long we would cut off an entire village, so speed was key.
My mum was the designated bridge operator in our party and she did a fine job while we sailed through – waving at the traffic we were holding up.
If you are as inexperienced as us, you are bound to get it wrong, but near-misses brought us the amusement.
They say canal life is addictive and I can see why. We had the boat for a full day, but next time we might book a short break because the company also does weekend and midweek boat hire.
Pennine Cruisers has five luxury boats in its fleet for the season and all are available for short breaks, weekly and fortnightly hire.
A holiday onboard one of Pennine Cruisers’ narrow boats includes a top-class and specially built boat with full headroom throughout.
All boats have fully equipped kitchen areas with a full-size cooker, grill, hob, fridge, sink and drainer, storage cupboards, crockery, cutlery and cooking utensils.
All boats have one or two flushing toilets and showers over 4ft baths.
Plus, they all have full central heating and three of them also have traditional solid-fuel stoves.
Full lockside instruction is given to all holiday boaters to ensure hirers are confident in the operation of locks and know how to operate them safely so they can enjoy all aspects of their holiday.
A typical weekend break would take you from the base in Skipton either eastward to Saltaire or westwards to Foulridge and back again.
A week’s hire could take you eastward through Bingley Five Rise Locks to Leeds, or westward through the lovely villages of Gargrave and Bank Newton, through the Foulridge tunnel at the highest section of the canal, and then down into Lancashire towards Wigan.
I loved the fact you are never more than a few yards from dry land, and at lunchtime you can simply moor up and stroll down to the local pub.
The children absolutely loved it, one minute they were helping to drive, the next they were at the front of the boat feeding the ducks, and they also enjoyed being inside in the warmth.
Pets are also welcome on board, too.
If you do decide to make more of a holiday of it, there are many attractions in and around Skipton, including Bolton Abbey Estate, Craven Museum, Embsay Steam Railway and Skipton Castle.
While cruising in the Dales you could also just do some walking, exploring the hills and valleys, taking in the fresh air and beauty.
You can definitely feel yourself unwinding as life takes on a different pace and aspect away from the busy roads in the distance.
The earlier you book the better, to ensure you get the dates you want.
- Reviewed August 2014
NEED TO KNOW…
LOCATION: 19 Coach St, Skipton, BD23 1LH
OPEN: All year round. Day boat hire is from 9.15am until 4.30pm
PRICES: £4 per passenger for 30-minute public boat trip.
DAY HIRE: Summer trips for ten people: £155 on weekdays and £190 on weekends. Summer trips for four people: £110 on weekdays and £120 on weekends.
Winter trips are cheaper.
VISIT: www.penninecruisers.comWinter boat day hire from £95. Peak-season boat hire from £110 for four people or from £155 for boats for up to ten people.
CALL: 01756 795478.