A Narrowboat (notice NO hyphen) epitomizes the often weird and many wonderful ways of tourism in Great Britain.
Brits call them Narrowboats, as it is one word, and depending on their size and length, a Narrowboat holds from 2 to 10 people.
Research indicates there are more than 38,000 Narrowboats in the UK, and they’re a wonderful leisurely way to see the 3,000 miles of handsomely historic waterways that, Britain being Britain, envelops you in more than 200 years of fascinating local and national history.
A large percentage of Narrowboats are actually permanent homes for many people, but there are still lots of places they can be rented for a special trip.
The first time I spotted a Narrowboat in Great Britian, I was enjoying a ploughman’s lunch—usually bread, cheese, and fresh, absolutely ham, green salad, hard boiled eggs and an apple. And, of course, a superb only-in-the-UK pickled onion. I was in one of those classic riverside pubs.
Off to my left there was a long, narrow bridge that spanned a gorgeous, lushly green valley. Surprisingly, the bridge was not for a roadway or railway, but rather it was a water canal. And, coming towards me on that waterway, was a slim, trim highly imaginative, full of character, multicolored Narrowboat.
I’ve always loved “chatting up the locals” wherever I go, and near my lunch table was a middle-aged couple who looked as if they’d stepped out of a British Tourist office poster.
The woman smiled at me, noticing my surprise at seeing the Narrowboat.
“Yes,” she said in a marvelous, throaty local brogue, “they are lovely aren’t they? You can rent them, and some offer you the chance to step off the Narrowboat and stay overnight in one of the many waterside cottages.”
To get an even better idea of how Narrowboats operate, check out the Huddersfield Narrow Canal. At three miles in length, it is the deepest canal in Britain, taking a full 16 years to build. There's absolutely exquisite local scenery along the canal route.
Talking with some Narrowboat owners, I was intrigued to hear that another joy of Narrowboating, is the number of Locks you’ll go up or down through. The UK has 1,569 locks and 53 tunnels that some canals go through, plus 3,112 canal carrying bridges, and even 370 water canal aqueducts.
For photo buffs, I urge you to check out the Bingley Five Rise Locks on the Leeds and Liverpool Canal at Bingley.
If shot with a wide angle lens, it looks as if the five lock gates are part of some steeple chase canal adventure. I recommend you go in the summer months.
John Clayton can be reached at email@example.com