A favourite haunt of houseboat friends is Skipton, known as the Gateway to the Dales. Stone cobbled ‘setts’ flank each side of the broad High Street, once housing pens of sheep, cattle and other livestock for sale. Today, kaleidoscopic stalls sell an array of tempting goods, including quality Christmas flora. Livestock are now banished to the outskirts of town, but the enterprising auction market also hosts theatre and other cultural entertainments through the year.
A popular gathering place is the basin on a bend of the Leeds and Liverpool Canal, the longest canal in the country. The bronze statue of the much loved personality, Freddie Trueman, the archetypal plain speaking Yorkshireman, is poised forever bowling his ball towards the tower of Holy Trinity Church. Well maintained residential barges, appreciated as indigenous are licensed by the Canal and River Trust. Barge folk share desirable scenery with converted waterside mill apartments, each respecting the other.
There is a distinct pride and tradition kept alive on the canals. A local tavern has illustrations of a large Mid Victorian houseboat, resembling an Oxbridge College barge, being towed by a rugged horse along the canal. The cinder surfaced tow paths, using spoils from nearby mill steam boilers and barges, which made Mum’s socks grubby in the olden days are now replaced with smart flagstones. It may be good thing that the warehouses and other grimy trappings of industry are long gone.