The Narrow Boat, Skipton
Keighley & Craven CAMRA have voted the Narrow Boat in Skipton as its Pub of the Season for Spring 2011. Amazingly, this is the seventh time that the Narrow Boat has won the award since it opened twelve years ago and the third time in the three years that current manager, Tim Hughes, has been at the helm. This hidden gem, tucked away in narrow Victoria Street between the High Street and the canal basin has become much more widely-known in recent years and it is not uncommon to find locals rubbing shoulders with visiting beer afficionados from, amongst other places, Chicago, Dublin, Milan, Moscow and Keighley!
Although the building itself is quite modern, having been constructed in the late 1980s as part of Skipton‘s award-winning town centre redevelopment, its porticoed exterior and cosy wood-panelled interior give it an “olde-worlde” ambience. On entering the main drinking area, the bar is ahead and to the left and there is a timber-balustraded “minstrels‘ gallery” above. To the right, in an extension completed in 2006, is a spacious, low-ceilinged room favoured by diners and drinkers wanting a quiet chat or read away from the hubbub of the bar. Above this is a private function room which is also used for “brasserie dining” on Friday and Saturday evenings. All four rooms are decorated with old brewery posters, signs and mirrors from Britain and Europe and reconditioned church pews feature prominently among the furnishings. An interesting canal-themed mural adorns the upper wall of the bar opposite the minstrels‘ gallery, although evidently geography was not the artist‘s strongest subject.
As the first establishment in the steadily-expanding Market Town Taverns group of free houses, the Narrow Boat espouses that company‘s ethos of “good beer, good food, good wine and good company”, with no piped music, gaming machines, jukebox or commercial fizzy lagers – it is therefore not frequented by the type of clientele who enjoy such things. The pub does, however, have an entertainment licence and positively encourages good quality live music. The local folk club, which charges a small admission fee, meets in the upstairs function room every Monday evening and a recent innovation, on one Sunday evening per month, is “Mexican Bob’s Open Mike Session” which is great fun (Sombreros and droopy moustaches optional – but don’t tell the ambassador I said so!). For those who appreciate REAL entertainment and an in-depth examination of human psychology, the Wednesday evening quiz is very popular.
Now for the bit you‘ve all been waiting for: the beer! Of the eight hand pumps on the bar, the four left-hand ones dispense the regular beers, currently Black Sheep Bitter, Ilkley Mary-Jane, Taylor‘s Landlord and one from the local Copper Dragon Brewery. The four right-hand ones are for the ever-changing guest ales, one of which is always a dark beer, although a red ruby ale may occasionally stand-in for a mild, stout or porter. The guest ales are sourced from an ever-expanding range of independent breweries, still mainly in Northern England, but increasingly from further afield, such as the superb Thornbridge ales from Derbyshire and the equally fine, totally off-the-wall beers from Brew Dog in the North-East of Scotland. Other regularly-featured breweries include, in no particular order, Daleside, Durham, Elland, Abbeydale, Fernandes, Ossett, Ilkley, Leeds, Saltaire, Kelham Island, Great Heck, Roosters, Wentworth, Wensleydale, Yorkshire Dales, etc. Anyone coming in and asking for Tetleys or John Smiths will be politely re-directed to another establishment! The cellarmanship is consistently excellent and a recent extension to the stillage, which will allow more beers to settle for longer, should result in the quality of the beer at the pump becoming even better, if that were possible. As if all this were not enough, there are several quality tradional ciders and perries on sale, often from Welsh producers, reflecting manager Tim‘s origins, plus a good selection of quality continental beers, both on draught and in bottles.
Good, reasonably-priced meals (including vegetarian options) are available from 12 to 2.30 and 5.30 to 9 Mondays to Saturdays and from 12 to 4 on Sundays. On Friday and Saturday evenings the food is served by waitresses in the upstairs function room. Well-behaved children under the age of fourteen are admitted when dining with adults, but must leave when the meal is finished. They are, however, welcome to join the smokers at the outside tables under the portico! The Narrow Boat prides itself on being a dog-friendly pub, therefore canine customers with well-behaved owners on a lead are made very welcome.
I could go on and on (I usually do!), but time and tiredness (and Hawkshead XXXBP) have defeated me, so, suffice to say, get yourselves down to the Boat, where you will be made very welcome by Tim, Spike, Tanya and the team. You‘ll soon be floating off into a beery dream world only to be rudely-awakened several hours later by a text message from the wife/husband/partner/ex, wondering where the hell the shopping/takeaway has got to, or, even worse, by Tanya telling you that it‘s time to go home and you‘ve three seconds to finish that pint and the toilet lights are already switched-off...
PRESENTATION OF THE AWARD WILL TAKE PLACE AT ABOUT 8.30 ON TUESDAY 22ND MARCH. ALL ARE WELCOME TO ATTEND.
The Narrow Boat, 38 Victoria Street, Skipton BD2 1JE. Telephone: 01756 797922. Website: http://www.markettowntaverns.co.uk