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Some secrets should be kept, but having returned from the most wonderful and relaxing cruise on the Leeds Liverpool canal where we traveled at about 2 miles an hour and enjoyed the luxury of a 5 * hotel boat, I feel I should share this with you. Holidays that involve flights are often stressful and don't do much to reduce our carbon footprint which we are always being encouraged to do. I think we have found a solution!
The Boutique hotel boat is called Lady Teal and was made especially for Nick and Gina the owners by Millburn Boats Ltd. It is a wide beam boat and just fits snugly into the locks, something people question quite often as she looks so big! She actually measures 60 foot long and 13 foot wide. They have designed it to provide everything that they would like to have as guests, the cosy cabins have a beautiful en suite wet room and the lounge is both stylish and comfortable and doubles as a dining room where we enjoyed fabulous food. The attention to detail is spot on.
Boarding the boat needs a little agility as there are steep steps down off the stern deck, the corridor runs along the starboard side and has lots of windows and bookcases and shelves which provides useful storage space. The lounge has fully programmable lighting which is needed as the sun sets in the stunning countryside where we moored overnight. The glass roof works electrically and can be used in conjunction with a blind which we needed to keep the sun out of our eyes! The lounge is the full 13 feet wide with fixed seating under the windows, which drop down to allow you to take photographs or let in fresh air if it's not too cold and windy. The side windows slide back too, making the lounge bright and airy. There were plenty of comfortable armchairs, some in stripes toning with the curtains and some in cream, these could be moved to give the best view and are used also when dining. Leather footstools were great to rest your legs after a long walk! There were 4 small folding wooden tables, two with the Lady Teal logo in marquetry. This meant that at meal times you could sit individually or at a longer table with fellow guests. The curtains were a beautiful deep maroon shot silk with bands in gold and black, really luxurious looking and plenty of matching cushions in nearly every shape and size you could imagine. The Television and DVD player was wall mounted in the centre of a fitted cupboard unit, housing glasses and wines and spirits and the lower cupboards contained some of the lovely china used for dinner. The wood finish on the walls and floor were of light wood and a few touches such as a modern lamp and fresh flowers gave the lounge a welcoming feel. A modern steel fire with chimney that also gave off heat would be useful on a cold day I imagine but we didn't need it, the under floor heating ensures a warm and cosy boat. There were board games and a computer if you really needed to get on the internet but we enjoyed being free from the strains and stress of modern life and enjoyed the beautiful scenery. A Krups coffee machine was in the lounge if you felt the need of a shot of caffeine when Gina and Nick were busy and a bowl of fruit just in case you needed a snack! A small corner had postcards, canal related goods and a range of toiletries as used in bathroom for sale.
The galley was next to the lounge so easy for food service and once again much careful thought had gone into fitting it out. A double range cooker and American style fridge freezer with ice maker aren't seen on many boats, but all mod cons enabled Gina to provide excellent meals. The breakfast menu was viewed on the television and the selection was better than some hotels I have visited. The produce was sourced locally as far as possible - eggs were bought one day from a stall set up by a local farmer near one of the locks. We could choose from homemade Granola, cereals, fresh fruit and fruit juices, a full Yorkshire breakfast or any part of it, bagels, croissants etc and homemade strawberry jam and marmalade to finish off the toast. Tea and coffee were served in cafetieres and glass teapots for one or two people, including de-caffeinated and a great selection of leaf tea.
As if that wasn't enough we had coffee or tea mid morning with slices of a lovely homemade fruit cake and another morning warm shortbread. Of course working the locks or walking along the canal side does give you an appetite!
Lunches were so much nicer than the sandwich we used to have on canal boat holidays! One day we had Chorizo, red pepper and cherry tomato tatin with salad leaves and warm rolls and another day we cooked chicken and potatoes and courgettes on a Raclette which was great fun. Drinks were included so a G&T, glass of beer (and there were lots of local types to choose from) or glass of wine went down very well. All drinks are included except Champagne or if you want a special bottle of wine. Fresh fruit and Greek yogurt or Fresh Pineapple satisfied the sweet taste buds and coffee completed the meals.
Afternoon tea - yes more food! including warm scones and jam - just in case we felt hungry kept us going until canapés and pre dinner drinks which lead us up to superb 4 course dinners. This cruise could be re-named as a Gourmet Cruise as we ate the most delicious meals. My favourite evening meal was Smoked haddock and king prawns in a crème fraiche sauce served with creamed potatoes and a selection of vegetables. But the Lamb and orange casserole was a close second. I loved all the starters - Courgette soup, Melon and King prawns with Port and Sweet chilli sauce, Smoked salmon with crème fraiche and dill and Wasabi. The sweets too were beautifully presented, top of the list was a sweet pastry tart filled with cream patisserie and topped with raspberries and a coulis, although the Panna cotta was good and the sponge pudding was so light we were all impressed plus it was topped with homemade Rhubarb and ginger jam and a little jug of proper custard - Birds custard cannot rival Gina's homemade version. The colourful little pans and casserole dishes that were used to serve the mains and Dauphinoise potatoes etc were really impressive as were the tiny white dishes for sauces etc again the attention to detail was marvellous. I was amazed at how much had been stored on the boat. Tablecloths and linen napkins for dinner made the table look attractive, although paper napkins were used at other meals. Maybe your mouth is watering as you read about all the tasty meals we sampled, and in case this wasn't enough there was cheese and biscuits to follow, port if you wished and coffee. Nick changes from being the Skipper to an excellent waiter and having used so many dishes I'm sure he's glad they have a dishwasher! When I review hotels I like to point out good things along with bad and having been involved with catering I was pleased to see that a fork was replaced after falling on the floor, in some hotels I have seen it put back on the table. Full marks awarded!
The boat has two cabins that can be double or twin called Brindley and Whitworth and one single called Rennie, all named after canal engineers, they all are en suite, the toilets are like on planes and although they are noisy they were very efficient and so much nicer than the Elsan variety! The wet rooms were small but beautiful, shiny white tiles with two panels of glass mosaic which were in different colours in each en suite. The glass doors were etched with the logo. I loved the tiny trough like washbasin that had a fabulously modern tap which was joy stick style and had a circular glass disc surrounding it which the water ran down. A towel rail warmed the hand towels and two hooks for the bath sheets above ensured plenty of storage space. The white towels were the fluffiest I have seen for a while and made by Christy. A shelf stored an extra toilet roll and wash cloths, a candle and a vase with a fresh Gerbera. The toiletries on the shelf near the powerful shower, which incidently had fascinating colour changing LED lights in the showerhead, were made by Purelakes and were eco-friendly. These were large bottles and re-filled, which is good so no wastage and cuts down on plastic waste. A large mirror over the washbasin helped to make the wet room look larger.
The cabins were equipped with everything you could need and the sprung mattresses were very comfortable. The duvet covers were slightly different in the two double rooms, but were in dark rich colours with toning curtains and cushions. What a treat too to find Egyptian cotton sheets like we have at home which are so comfortable to sleep on. A shelf on the one wall held a carafe and glass and iced water was available at night if you wanted it. Tissues, slippers, hand and body lotion and an efficient hair drier just as one expects in a 5* hotel, but even better than the 5* hotels we have stayed in the coffee was ground and in a lovely little storage jar, as was the sugar and the tea leaves in a cute caddy. A small cafetiere, tea pot and kettle plus mugs meant you could make a drink if you woke early in the morning, milk was available in a small flask at night if you wanted it, so much nicer than these little pots of sterilised milk that shoots everywhere when you try to open them! There was even a tray if you wanted breakfast in bed!
There was a small flat screen television and DVD player on the wall above a mirror and storage shelves. A linen basket in case you had wet clothes to store and a deep lockable drawer and again the attention to detail was brilliant as the key was on a small carabiner which could be attached to your trousers. The wardrobe had plenty of shelves for storing clothes and ample hangers and had a full length mirror on the door. In the single room the wardrobe was cunningly built behind the mirror. Between the beds on a small table was a pretty glass plate - decorated I guess by Gina by the initials, useful for popping my watch on at night and although there were adequate ceiling lights and super bendy lights over the bed, there was a fascinating LED emergency light stick just in case of a power failure. Useful addition for summer should the weather be hot, a fan was provided and normal sockets for any electrical items. We used soft bags rather than cases and these fitted easily under the beds although my sister in law had a case and hers fitted under the single bed easily. The cabins are neat but you quickly learn how to move around each other and the beds were very comfortable.
The crew's quarters were at the stern end of the boat and I presume this is where the washing machine and tumble drier were housed too, as they do all the washing on the boat.
When moored you can sit on the unique upper deck, unfortunately it was a cold wind although sunny so we didn't manage to enjoy this facility, but lunches and cocktails can be served on deck. There is a framework that folds flat but can be erected to form a safety rail, chairs etc are stored in a special container, the Star deck is a very attractive feature. The top deck has pots of pretty flowers and fresh herbs and is where Lady the ship's dog spends most of her time. Lady is a breed that sheds no hair and doesn't usually affect people with allergies, part Shihtzu I think. She was definitely an added bonus, entertaining us all and so friendly. For people who love dogs but don't have one at home it was an added pleasure on this holiday.
The website- www.ladyteal.co.uk has all the information of what stretches of the canal are covered on which cruise, and cruises last 3 or 4 days, if desired you can book two together to make a weeks holiday. We parked at a marina in Reedley near Burnley and finished the cruise in Skipton where a taxi was provided to transport us back to our cars. This is all included in the cost or transport to the nearest railway station if you travel by train. You can help at the locks if you wish, walk along the canal, go further afield or just laze in the comfortable lounge. This is a holiday where you choose just how much you want to do, and it may be possible to steer too under supervision although I admit I didn't want to be in charge of such a big and expensive vessel!
Nick went over safety rules at the start of the cruise which are important when travelling on canals especially on such a big boat as Lady Teal. For people who like some facts and figures, the engine is 90hp and there is also a bowthruster which helps with manoeuvring. A powerful generator ensures a good supply of electricity and the underfloor heating is thermostatically controlled in each cabin. The water tank holds 450gallons and the toilet holding tank holds 200gallons. The water pump works at 100litres a minute so you get a good shower not a little dribble!
Cost - 2 people sharing in a double cabin is £365 per person for 3 nights and £445 for 4 nights or £725 for a 7 night cruise.
Verdict:- I'm sure you will have guessed that I thoroughly enjoyed this short holiday and would have loved to stay longer. The boat was very comfortable, the food was brilliant, the scenery beautiful, the hosts Nick and Gina (and Lady the dog) were very friendly and knowledgeable, certainly worthy of the 5* that has been awarded by enjoyEngland.com. We felt we were staying with friends in their home, nothing was too much trouble.
Everyday will be different but for people who love bird watching, spotting wild animals, fresh air, canals, stunning scenery, good food and doing something different then I can recommend a cruise on the Lady Teal.