Sunday, 30 September 2012

Holidaying on the Leeds-Liverpool canal

I haven't had a holiday in AGES (literally years!) so when Mum and Dad offered to pay for me and Andy to go away with them this year, we jumped at the chance. And so, in the first week in September we set off on a narrowboat from Snaygill, Skipton, on the Leeds to Liverpool canal.

Day One: Snaygill to Gargrave.
The first day was really just an afternoon once we'd picked the boat up. We had some lunch at the Red Lion Pub in Skipton (delicious, and the pub is a very lovely old place on the High Street), then went to pick up our home for the week, Caraway. After a quick lesson on how to use the boat, plus how to work swing bridges we were off!

We moved north west through Skipton and off negotiating the swing bridges up towards Gargrave. We were in a mini convoy with some other boats from Snaygill Boats, which meant we took it in turns on the swing bridges and we only did one that day before getting to work the locks. Along with the other boats from Snaygill we had a lesson in how to use the locks from Richard, a friend of Snaygill Boats, and his doggie companion, Charles.

Learning the locks at Gragrave. Charles the dog is on the left overseeing proceedings!

After three locks we reached the village of Gargrave, where we moored for the night, and had a nice meal in the Old Swan Inn before an early night, ready to tackle the locks up to Foulridge.

Day Two: Gargrave to Foulridge.
The next morning was drizzly and wet, so my wellies and cagoule got their first (and only) outing for sorting the locks. Locks are much easier to operate if there are two boats in the lock. This makes it easier for the driver of the boat as well as those operating the locks as the work is shared. 

I spotted a little mouse running along the top of the first lock gate we went through at Gargrave! Very cute, but unfortunately I didn't get a picture.

Life is very slow on the canal and it really does feel like you've left the modern world behind. Well, unless you count Andy's iPad and things! At one point we saw the steam from a steam engine which must've been running on the mainline according to our map books.

There was a very bendy section between Bank Newton and East Marton, and it was very pretty with lots of open farmland. We stopped at Foulridge, which is just in Lancashire, and moored overnight ready to take on the tunnel in the morning. 

Dinner that night was a nice meal in the New Inn, Foulridge, where I had a gorgeous Sticky Toffee Pudding.

Day Three: Foulridge to East Marton
Day Three started with some drama! The plan was to go through the one mile long tunnel, turn round and come back. The tunnel is controlled by traffic lights as it's only wide enough for one boat at a time, and was open for 10 minutes on the hour. Just as we were ready to go through at 9am, Andy spotted steam coming from the engine. The previous day we'd had a loud beeping noise coming from the engine, so it was decided we would call Snaygill for help.

In a quirk which shows you just how slow life on the canal is, Jo from Snaygill was with us in 15 minutes in her car from  the boatyard where we had started out a day and a half earlier! The engine wasn't broken, just overheated, so once the water for cooling the engine had been topped up, off we went through the tunnel just an hour behind our vague schedule.

The inside of the tunnel is very cold and wet, with water dripping constantly from the ceiling. The effect of this is that there are beautiful stalactite formations on the ceiling/walls.

The walls of Foulridge tunnel.
Once through the tunnel, we turned round, and headed back towards Gargrave. It was a lovely sunny day, and we stopped at my favourite spot on the canal, East Marton. Here we had a lovely meal onboard the boat, and Andy and I walked up the hill to the Cross Keys for a drink and couldn't resist some pudding! A fabulous day and evening.
Our beautiful mooring position at East Marton

The inviting glow from the Cross Keys, up the hill at East Marton.  SO going back here,
Day Four: East Marton to Skipton
Day four saw us heading back through a very picturesque section of locks through Greenber Field Locks, Bank Newton Locks, and Gargrave back to Skipton. Twelve locks in total, although having done all of the locks so far, I let Andy and Mum have a go on a couple without me today. One of my highlights - I had spotted an honesty box with eggs on our way up at Gargrave so I made sure I went to get some for our lunch. Love it!

Greenber Field Top Lock getting more water.
Lock Keepers Cottage at Bank Newton
Honesty eggs!
Mooring at Skipton for the evening.
Evening dinner was some gorgeous fish and chips from Bizzie Lizzie's restaurant in Skipton, overlooking the canal. 

Day Five: Skipton to Bingley
Today was a lovely day of countryside, and wooded areas, with no locks at all. However, this was a bittersweet victory, as the locks were replaced by what felt like 450 swing bridges. Most of which have to be manually swung. One of the most memorable was the Polish Airmen memorial bridge, which was erected to commermorate the crash of a bomber carrying a crew of polish airmen returning from a training flight during World War II. The people who arranged for the memorial managed to track down some of the families of the crew, and the memorial was unveiled by one of the widows, who had only been married for a matter of weeks when her husband died. 

 Just after the memorial, I saw my first ever Kingfisher, to add to Mum's from earlier in the trip. You don't see them closely, just a flash of bright turquoise blue flying away in front of the boat and into the trees.

We arrived at the top of the Bingley Five Rise half an hour too late to descend that night, so moored up, and went for a curry in Bingley. Bingley was a rather depressing town, with loads of boarded up shops and pubs, but our curry was delicious. and we returned to the boat ready for our descent and following ascent up the five rise the next morning.

Day Six: Bingley to Riddlesden; Keighley and Worth Valley Railway; Haworth.
Day six was our busiest day. First up, a trip down and up the Bingley Five Rise locks. This is a staircase lock, so called because each lock opens into the next creating a staircase down/up the hill.
Heading into the bottom lock
Me driving along to Riddlesden
Once we reached Riddlesden, we moored up and got the bus into Keighley for a trip on the Keighley and Worth Valley Railway up to Haworth.
Oakworth Station. Beautiful.
At Haworth, Mum and I walked up Main Street to see the Parsonage where the Bronte's lived. We didn't go in, but I am thinking a road trip with the girls might be in order to go another time.
The Bronte Museum and Parsonage

Top of Main Street, Haworth. The Black Bull, on the right, is where Branwell drank, and the Apothecary on the left is where he bought his laudenum.
A fabulous day of vintage splendour - just the kind I like!

Day Seven: Back to Snaygill.
The final day was a short one, as we trundled back to Snaygill Boats. I drove again, and saw my second kingfisher (Andy saw this one too). It was colder, but it was a very pleasant last day on the canal. Andy and I bought Mum and Dad a couple of brass plates that people screw to their canal boats as badges to say where they've been as a little present to say thanks. (Dad has put them up over the garage door in the absence of a narrow boat!)

I really, really loved our canal boat holiday, and would love to do another one, maybe this time in Shropshire or Cheshire, or... I just don't know! A great holiday. Thanks Mum and Dad!


  1. I live right next to the Leeds Liverpool canal and love wandering past all of the canal boats, it looks so relaxing! My boyfriend lives in Keighley but I've never really explored the surrounding area that much because he prefers to come to Leeds... think I need to convince him that we should go to Haworth asap!
    Kaz x

    1. Oh you totally should! My boyfriend lives in Leeds (I'm in Manchester) and we're totally planning to go back to some of the places. I really fancy going back to the Keighley and Worth Valley Railway for one of their evening specials "The Howarth Haddock" - fish supper, bar, and live music on the platform at the end! Vintage heaven! But almost all the places we went are worth a trip out to - do it! x

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