27th March 2023
Love the idea of narrow boating, but want to do it in luxury? The fabulous Boutique Narrowboats, running from Union Canal Wharf in Market Harborough, could be the answer
A chance mini-break on a canal boat inspired the creation of an entire business for the husband-and-wife team behind Boutique Narrowboats. Aaran Chapman and Sharon Peach enjoyed a brief two-night stay on a narrowboat back in 2016. They went on to create a whole mini-fleet of high-end holiday hire boats, which now run from Union Wharf in Market Harborough.
‘We were complete novices, but adored the whole experience of canal boating around Market Harborough,’ says Sharon. ‘But the interior of that first hire boat was bleak. We did our research when we got home, and it felt like narrowboats in general were stuck in a gloomy, varnished plywood time warp. We knew we could do better.’ The idea for Boutique Narrowboats was born.
A new way of design
Aaran and Sharon began to apply contemporary interior design techniques to the narrow spaces of a canal boat. This involved finding suitable materials that would withstand the vibrations and environmental conditions on a boat, as well as designing interiors that would stand up to the rigours of holiday hires. Engineer Aaran investigated ways of maintaining power during a holiday, so that luxury items such as coffee machines could run easily.
Within the first year of trading, the first Boutique Narrowboat was booked out at 94%, and the couple knew they were on to something. When the holiday business at Union Wharf came up for sale, they knew it was the perfect fit.
Building their own
Of course, you can’t buy narrowboats already designed like this, so the couple have concentrated on fitting out their own designs, especially for couples. A small team of craftspeople has joined them, so that each boat features bespoke carpentry. Demand is high for the Boutique Narrowboats, and the company also occasionally fits out boats for private sale, too.
After serving many thousands of guests over the first few years, the company now has a clear picture of its customers’ needs. The contemporary interiors and modern fit-outs have attracted a whole new audience to the canals, something that has breathed new life into the industry.
‘Our guests tend to be younger and a more diverse demographic than most traditional boaters,’ says Aaran. ‘Many are novices, just like we were. We are proud to say that makes Boutique Narrowboats very different from other hire companies.’
Holiday and day boats
The small fleet at Union Wharf now includes four-day boats for families, as well as the four Boutique Narrowboats for couples. They run all year round, and each booking includes a free online course to help prepare for the experience, as well as practical training on the day.
FIND OUT MORE AND BOOK
Boutique Narrowboats have an office at 1a Canalside, Union Wharf,
Market Harborough, LE16 7UW, 01858 432123
Find out more and book your Boutique Narrowboat holiday at
You can also book day narrowboats for 2–12 people. Visit www.unionwharfharborough.co.uk for details.