If we asked you to list all the different ways to explore Milton Keynes, we’d put money on you saying by car, by foot and by cycle. All of which are perfectly valid (and commonly used) methods of transport around our 51 year old city. But what about by boat? We don’t just mean a pedalo on Willen Lake, we mean an actual boat along the Grand Union Canal. Curious? We spent the afternoon at Our Little Boats to discover what the canal has to offer and how you can enjoy it.
As I pulled off the dual carriageway that would normally take me at high speed from Central Milton Keynes out to the south side of the city, there was an instant feeling of stepping into a different world. I was immediately driving alongside a marina, filled with boats, ducks and waterfront houses. A warm breeze and the gentle chug of a narrowboat engine greeted me as a I stepped out of my car and walked along the canal towpath to the marina office.
I was meeting Andy, co-found of Our Little Boats – a new boating holiday business based out of Milton Keynes Marina in Peartree Bridge. Our Little Boats is an apt name for this unexpected Milton Keynes business, as moored before me was a little (but by no means less impressive than a larger) canal boat. The light and dark blue design beautifully combined old world charm with modernity and without even being invited, I climbed aboard to discover what lay within.
Everything about this boat breathes quality. From the paintwork, to the external accessories. This is something Andy made clear throughout my visit. “There are a number of places you can hire a narrowboat, but we wanted to differentiate ourselves by offering a product that is spectacularly handcrafted, and a service to go with it that is above and beyond what you can get from any other holiday companies”.
The boat in question – ‘As You Like It’ – is a 37-foot recently refitted and repainted traditional narrowboat suited to couples or young families, with a rear deck and small front deck. The boat has a gas-fired, full central heating system (perfect for cosying up on a chilly British evening), as well as sockets for charging mobile phones (perfect for sending selfies to those friends who didn’t make the boat guest list).
The lounge area has cosy ‘U’ shaped seating with table which converts in the evening, into a double bed. There is also a TV/DVD and CD/Radio player (so your home comforts aren’t too far away).
The lounge adjoins a smart and rather homely looking kitchen, fully equipped with a 4 burner gas cooker, complete with grill and oven, as well as a medium sized fridge. There is also a sink, drainer and plenty of work surface and storage space. Crockery and cutlery for 4 people, glasses, pots & pans etc are also supplied.
One of my favourite features of the boat is the bathroom. Consisting of a full shower, flush toilet and wash basin, which opens up to transform from a space saving design, to a spacious (and lockable) bathroom. And the head room is pretty good throughout – as a six and bit foot guy, I didn’t have to worry about knocking my forehead into anything whilst walking around the cabin.
After the tour of the cabin, Andy invited me to take a short trip with him along the canal. I had some experience of boats, so after pulling out of the marina, Andy handed control over to me. Despite being a little nervous at first, it doesn’t take long to pick up the feel of using the tiler to steer. After just a few minutes, I felt like I was anywhere but Milton Keynes. The rush of the traffic had gone and I was immersed into a completely different world – a calm and no worries sort of world – just a few metres below the hustle and bustle of everyday MK life. As we turned the boat around and headed back towards the marina, I couldn’t help but think to myself: “this has surely got to be the best way to explore Milton Keynes, by far”.
As part of the hire price of ‘As You Like It’, you also receive:
- Bed Linen
- Hair Dryer
- Tea Towel
- Toilet Rolls
- 2 litre of bottled water
- Tuition, buoyancy aids and fuel
- Car parking (at owners risk)
- Towels and breakfast pack are also available as a chargeable optional extra
Prices vary depending on duration of hire and time of year, but you can benefit from their 25% introductory offer on certain dates. Check their website for details: www.ourlittleboats.com