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The Otley Run Survival Guide

· Joseph Sheerin · Food and Drink

Here's your foolproof guide to master the famous Otley Run.


The Otley Run is a legendary Leeds tradition – but if you’re doing it, make sure you do it right, and follow our expert tips to make it a memorable night.

It’s as Leeds as Elland Road and Alan Bennett, but if you’re doing The Otley Run, make sure it’s the best it possibly can be. This is the most famous pub crawl in the country, and if you’re doing it for the first time, we’ve got some hints and tips you may want to take advantage of, from making use of public transport to pacing yourself so you can reach the end.

Don’t miss the bus

First buses, Leeds

© Copyright Leeds-List 2017 by Joseph Sheerin

At 1.5 miles long, The Otley Run is one hell of a pub crawl and while a lot of the pubs are bunched together, the further down you go, the more spread out they are. Believe it or not, the buses run like clockwork (ish) so jump on the 1, 6 or 28 to make the trip from The Three Horseshoes to The Headingley Taps or The Hyde Park to The Eldon that little bit easier on your legs.

Co-ordination is key

Luvyababes Fancy Dress

© Copyright Leeds-List 2017 by Jess Rowbottom

There’s nothing worse than a mish-mash group with a cowboy, a tiger, a princess and a soldier. The Otley Run calls on creativity and it’s even better when the whole group co-ordinates into a horde of pilots, cats or soldiers. Make your gang’s outfit the envy of crowds – and plan ahead, because those fancy dress shops run out fast.

Beat the percentage game

The Fenton, Leeds

© Copyright Leeds-List 2017 by Joseph Sheerin

Now, there’ll probably be someone in your fancy dress party who looks at 6% on a bottle or a pump and laughs. But The Otley Run is the definition of a marathon and not a sprint. Keep an eye on the poison you pick, and you’ll still be raring to go by the time you stumble into The Dry Dock.

Get yourself easy access

West Yorkshire Playhouse Costume Hire

The range of fancy dress on The Otley Run is astounding, from tennis players to ballet dancers and every kind of animal under the sun. But here’s a top tip for you – you always want to make sure you can take a leak, so maybe think twice about those all-in-one boiler suits and onesies, yeah?

Eating’s not cheating

The Box

Credit: Tom Joy

Not to sound like your parents or anything – but The Otley Run is a mammoth challenge, and plenty of the places on your route from Headingley into the city centre are well known for their quality stomach-lining grub. Get stuck into those steaks at The Original Oak or your hands around the burgers at The Box – it makes sense y’know.

Stay on your own round


Big groups drink a lot of booze and with 16 pubs to take on the last thing you want to do is end up paying £40 every time you hit the bar. Stay on your own round, and you might not end up paying a fortune.

Leave your elbows at home

The New Inn, Headingley

© Copyright Leeds-List 2017 by Joseph Sheerin

Now The Otley Run is a popular pastime, which means the bars are always pretty busy. But no one likes folk who get their elbows out to sneak through the crowds – patience is a virtue people.

Stay on the beaten path

Otley Road

Credit: Chris Morgan licensed under Creative Commons for commercial use.

Now there are plenty of bars to pick from on your Otley Run, but there are some bars in Headingley that like to keep themselves off the route, meaning there are places for other folk to go to which aren’t as busy. As tempting as it might be to nip into Arcadia or The Head of Steam for one, keep with the crowds.

Come together

The Otley Run

© Copyright Leeds-List 2017 by Ali Turner

The Otley Run gets busy, especially if you pick a weekend or a bank holiday, so be prepared to have fellow fancy dressed groups walking the route with you. It’ll pay to make friends for the night – and who knows, it might make it even more of a memorable one.

Stay traditional

Beer flight

Nobody wants to burn out, so keep it traditional – the standard ‘rules’ suggest a half pint at most in each place on your journey, and it might be the wisest decision you make all night. After 16 bars and 16 pints, the last thing you’ll be thinking of is a couple more.