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Fred Baker presents the Pub of the Season Summer 2017 plaque to the staff at the Boat House, Skipton, July 2017

Fred Baker presents the Pub of the Season Summer 2017 plaque to the staff at the Boat House, Skipton, July 2017

The Narrow Boat, Skipton.

Keighley & Craven CAMRA branch members have chosen the Narrow Boat in Skipton as their Pub of the Season for Winter 2008/9, the fifth time it has won the award. Despite its cosy atmosphere and traditional décor, the Narrow Boat is, in fact, a very new pub, having been opened less than 10 years ago, in March 1999, in what was originally a wine bar in Skipton’s award-winning town centre redevelopment area. The brainchild of Knaresborough-based pub entrepreneur Ian Fozard, of Grinning Rat, Keighley, fame, it was to become the first of a chain of ten similar pubs across North and West Yorkshire known as Market Town Taverns. Although the size and physical layout of the ten pubs varies considerably, the ambience and ethos remain the same, ie good beer, good wine and good food in a convivial atmosphere with no piped music, no juke-box and no gaming machines.

In its original form, the Narrow Boat, so-named because of its proximity to the canal basin, consisted of a single ground floor bar, which was non-smoking from the very start, and an upstairs “minstrels’ gallery”, both furnished with old church pews and sturdy tables and decorated with old brewery posters and mirrors and an eye-catching canal-themed mural at mezzanine level. In the summer of 2006, the pub doubled in size by extending into the adjacent shop premises, providing a spacious ground-floor dining area and upstairs function room, as well as enlarged and improved toilets and kitchen facilities. In addition, there are several outside tables available to smokers under the Roman-style portico.

The bar hosts eight hand-pumps, the left-hand four of which dispense the regular beers – Black Sheep Bitter, Taylor’s Landlord, Copper Dragon Golden Pippin and Skipton Best Bitter. The four right-hand pumps dispense the guest beers, which are mainly from North of England independent brewers and nearly always include a mild, stout or porter. Breweries which are regularly represented include Abbeydale, Bateman’s, Barngates, Bowland, Daleside, Durham, Fernandes, Goose Eye, Hawkshead, Hesket Newmarket, Kelham Island, Leeds, Naylor’s, Ossett, Phoenix, Roosters, Salamander, Saltaire, York and … STOP PRESS: Great Heck, Old Mill, Wensleydale and Yorkshire Dales have just been added to the list in November. The only draught lagers on sale are good quality German beers – Kaltenberg Hell and Warsteiner and there is also a draught Belgian fruit beer and a guest draught Belgian Abbey or Trappist beer, together with a good quality draught cider – currently Thatcher’s Gold. A comprehensive selection of bottled beers from Belgium, Germany, the Czech Republic, Australia and the United States is also available, served, where possible, in the correct glasses. The bar is open from 12.00 to 23.00 every day except Christmas Day.

Since March of this year, the management of the Narrow Boat has been in the capable hands of Tim and Sharron Hughes, who originally hail from North Wales, but came to Skipton from a pub near Whaley Bridge in Derbyshire. A few years ago, Tim set up and ran what is listed in the Guinness Book of Records as the world’s smallest commercial micro-brewery, in a pub near Aberystwyth. He is very proud of his cellarmanship and the results are here at the Narrow Boat for all to see (and taste!).

The kitchen franchise has recently been taken over by two up-and-coming young local chefs: Jonathan Scott and Danny Stewart, and they are already attracting a considerable following with impressive lunchtime and evening a la carte menus, daily specials and lunchtime sandwiches and snacks. Food is served from 12.00 to 14.30 and 17.30 to 21.00 on Mondays to Saturdays and from 12.00 to 16.00 on Sundays. Well-behaved children under 14 are admitted only if dining with adults and there is a children’s menu. Well-behaved dogs are admitted at all times when not dining (there is therefore no dogs’ menu!). A dogs’ drinking bowl is available on request and can be filled with water (free) or beer (not free!).

Although piped music is strictly taboo, the Narrow Boat actively encourages live music. The local folk club – Skipton Folk Unplugged – meets in the upstairs function room at 20.30 every Monday evening, frequently with well-known guest artists, for whom a slightly higher charge is levied. The Easy Life Jazz Band plays on the first Tuesday evening of each month (free) and the Skipton Swing Society meets upstairs on the third Thursday evening of the month. Wednesday night is quiz night starting at 21.00, when you can pit your wits against the regulars in the hope of winning eight free pints for the winning team, or even £100 if you answer all the questions correctly (it has been known to happen – occasionally!).

To sum up then, the Narrow Boat is a great pub with excellent choice and quality of beer and food and a warm, convivial atmosphere which is enjoyed by customers of all ages and both sexes alike, from all walks of life. Tim and all the staff are to be congratulated on winning the prestigious “Pub of the Season” award, which will be presented on Thursday 18th December at about 20.30. All are welcome to attend, whether CAMRA members or not. The pub is to be found near to the Coach Street end of Victoria Street, a narrow alley running down from Skipton High Street towards the canal.

Andy Grant

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