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The Otley Run Survival Guide

· Katie Wells · Food and Drink

Want to conquer the famous Otley Run? Here’s your foolproof guide.

Ales, beers

From selecting the best fancy dress to cutting corners on the bus, this is all you need to know about mastering The Otley Run.

The Otley Run is the legendary pub crawl from Headingley into Leeds city centre. With 16 pubs along a 1.5 mile route, it’s the ultimate drinking challenge. But fear not, this Otley Run survival guide is full of useful advice and sneaky hints so you can make your pub crawl the best it can be. From being tactical with your drinks to making the most of public transport, follow these tips and you’ll make it all the way from Woodies to Dry Dock with ease.

Co-ordinate your costumes

Luvyababes Fancy Dress

Credit: Jess Rowbottom

Wacky fancy dress is expected on the Otley Run. You’ll see more than a few cowboys, superheroes and cheerleaders sinking pints as you move from pub to pub. But with so many creative costumes, if your crew want to stand out then coordination is key. There’s nothing like seeing a whole platoon of soldiers marching down Headingley Lane or a group of Mario Kart characters racing to Dry Dock. And it’s not just a great look, it’s practical because you can easily spot any stragglers.

Keep to the official route

It might be tempting to squeeze in an extra pint at one of the other pubs you pass, but it’s always best to stick to the well-trodden path. With 16 fantastic bars to visit, The Otley Run’s already a mammoth challenge and you don’t want to risk dropping out before end because you visited some add-ons. And some bars like Arcadia prefer to keep themselves out of all the madness so you should politely give them a miss.

Always choose your drinks wisely

The third tip in this Otley Run survival guide is to be a savvy drinker. There are (at least) 16 tipples ahead of you, so you have to play the long game. Kick things off with low-percentage lagers or even shandies so you don’t start to feel the effects too quickly. Then when you reach the halfway point and the beer-bloat starts to take over, switch to the spirits. Stick to this tried and tested method to make sure you reach the end of this mega pub crawl.

Eating’s not cheating

It’s no secret that this is a serious drinking challenge, so you’ve got to make sure you line your stomach properly. Luckily, plenty of the bars you’ll visit do great food. You can gorge on proper pub grub at Woodies or snaffle a stone-baked pizza at the Three Horseshoes. If hunger strikes further along the route, there are lots of tempting takeaways near Hyde Park Corner, like Crispy’s, Fortune Cookie and Mahmood’s.

Remember to check the weather

Original Oak

Yorkshire’s weather is quite often cold and rainy. You’ll have to walk between the pubs, so before you set off remember to check the forecast and prepare for the elements. Looking like it might rain? Bring a light-weight jacket that’s easy to pull on when you leave a pub and quick to pack away when you arrive at the next one – you don’t want to keep your carefully crafted fancy dress covered up with a coat!

Strap on your most sensible shoes


At 1.5 miles long, there’s a fair bit of walking involved in The Otley Run. Blisters and sore feet could get in the way of conquering the city’s famous pub crawl, so choose your footwear carefully. It’s best to leave the heels and flip-flops at home, even if they complete your crazy look. Go for a pair of comfy shoes or old trainers instead – you’ll be grateful for them on the long walk down Headingley Lane.

Bring a whistle


If there’s a large group of you on the pub crawl, it can be difficult to let everyone know when you’re moving on to the next bar. To avoid losing anyone, bring a whistle and blow it five minutes before you leave so your mates know to finish their drinks, then blow it again when you’re heading out the door – it’s just like your very own last orders!

You should be prepared for nature’s call

Over the Rainbow

Drinking, and lots of it, is at the heart of The Otley Run and that means you’ll be taking more than a few toilet breaks. So when you’re planning your fancy dress, remember that you’ll need to give yourself easy access for when nature calls. Onesies and morph suits might look hilarious, but they’re not your friend on this one.

You can hop on the bus

First Bus

Credit: Richard Walker

At the start of the route, it’s easy to zip between the bunched together pubs. But when you get to Original Oak, it’s a bit of a trek to The Hyde Park. Luckily, there’s a bus stop right outside the Original Oak. Hop on the 1, 6 or 28 if you don’t fancy the walk – they’ll take you right down to Hyde Park Corner and from there it’s just a short walk to your next bar.

Stay on your own round

Craft beer, bar

If you’re taking on The Otley Run with a big group of mates, doing rounds on this 16-hole pub crawl can get expensive. Large drinks orders quickly tot up, and before you know it you’ll be splashing £40 in one go. Not to mention that after 10 rounds, nobody knows who’s up next anyway. So to keep things simple and affordable, stay on your own round.