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Here’s Your Beginner’s Guide To The Otley Run In Leeds

The Otley Run is an infamous pub crawl of epic proportions. The route was originally made up of a mere mile of pubs and bars, but over the years has grown to include more and more of the Leeds students’ favourites. The result is an 18-stop drinking expedition that stretches over 4 miles.

As popular with locals as it is with students, the typical revellers are furnished in costume as part of a stag do, hen night, birthday party or sports society. There aren’t any set rules, and each of these groups will probably approach the night differently, but the main aim is to make it to the final bar having retained the ability to walk – speaking at this point is optional.

To see what all the fuss was about, I decided to gather some friends and embark on the Otley Run myself. Somehow, I managed to keep track of the changing prices of a pint of Black Sheep along the way and  held my camera upright long enough to take some photos.

Here’s how the Otley Run went for us:

1. Woodies Ale House, 3.40 pm. 

Xannie Marmion

This is the place where Otley Run dreams begin. Although compared with some of the other pubs and bars it was fairly underwhelming, our spirits were high and we were excited. Also, we were still sober, so Woodies probably suffered more scrutiny than most.

Price of a pint: £3

Beer garden rating: 4/10

Overall rating: 5/10

2. The Three Horseshoes, 4 pm.

Distance from the previous pub: 3 minutes

Xannie Marmion

Xannie Marmion

The second stop was The Three Horseshoes, which had recently had a face-lift and looked all the better for it. The sun was out, the beer was cheap and they put a TV on so we could keep an eye on the tennis. All in all, a charming pub, aside from the beer garden being next to a main road.

Price of a pint: £3

Beer garden rating: 3/10

Overall rating: 5/10

3. The New Inn, 4.30 pm. 

Distance from the previous pub: 1 minute

Xannie Marmion

Xannie Marmion

The New Inn was small, dark and heaving with locals, but I enjoyed its authenticity. There wasn’t much of a beer garden, and what there was of it was taken, so we sat inside and finished our beers pretty quickly. In hindsight, not the most memorable of pit-stops.

Price of a pint: £2.80

Beer garden rating: 2/10

Overall rating: 3.5/10

4. Arcadia, 5.05 pm.

Distance from the previous pub: 10 minutes

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The first of the bars we came to, Arcadia was a refreshing change from the pub scene and marked our entrance into Headingley. Clearly a specialist establishment, their list of ales was both extensive and expensive, but I sifted through to the trusty Black Sheep, and took a seat upstairs among the impressive décor.

Price of a pint: £3.18

Beer garden rating: N/A

Overall rating: 4/10

5. Headingley Taps, 5.40 pm. 

Distance from the previous bar: 5 minutes

Xannie Marmion

Xannie Marmion

This was such an impressive building that it didn’t really matter what was going on inside – it used to be a water pumping station. As you can probably see from the photo, we would have been happy customers anywhere that served us our next pint, but Headingley Taps is a special place, even if the beer garden is just a wall in a car park.

Price of a pint: £2.90

Beer garden rating: 2/10

Overall rating: 7/10

6. The Arc, 6 pm. 

Distance from the previous pub: 2 minutes

Xannie Marmion

Since this was the first place to ID us on entry, we realised it was finally an acceptable hour to start drinking. The only problem was, we were irretrievably far past that. The Arc had a much more up-beat atmosphere and a very cool look, so we were all very happy to stumble across it early enough to still remember to go back when we had a bit more money to spend.

Price of a pint: £3.60

Beer garden rating: 7/10

Overall rating: 6/10

7. Trio, 6.25 pm.

Distance from the previous bar: 1 minute

Xannie Marmion

Xannie Marmion

Trio is a dubious entry on the Otley Run list of destinations – for one reason or another, revellers tend to skip it, but we were keen for the full experience so we headed on it. Again, it was more swanky than most, but to our delight it was relatively empty and although it didn’t have a beer garden, it had a perfectly nice smoking area which we used to our advantage.

Price of a Pint: £3.90

Beer garden rating: 5/10

Overall rating: 6.5/10

8. The Box

Sadly, The Box was shut for renovations, so if you want to sample the complete version of the Otley Run, you’ll have to wait until its re-launch at the end of July.

9. The Skyrack, 7 pm. 

Distance from the previous bar: 5 minutes.

Xannie Marmion

Xannie Marmion

Xannie Marmion

Supposedly, the rules state that eating on an Otley Run is classed as cheating, but I challenge anyone to make it to the end unfed. The Skyrack was heaving with people and as we couldn’t fit in the beer garden, we saw it as the perfect opportunity for some light snacks. 12 bags of crisps later, we left, rather underwhelmed by the whole indoor experience but happy to be back within a normal price range.

Price of a pint: 2.80

Beer garden rating: 4.5/10

Overall rating: 5/10

10. The Original Oak, 7.25 pm. 

Distance from the previous pub: 1 minute

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Xannie Marmion

Undoubtedly the best beer garden of the night, The Original Oak have got it spot on for summer drinking. There were various outdoor screens showing both music and sport, there was an abundance of seating and the drinks were really fairly priced. We liked it there so much we ended up staying well past what our schedule allowed.

Price of a pint: £3.00

Beer garden rating: 9/10

Overall rating: 8/10

11. Hyde Park Pub, 8.15 pm. 

Distance from the previous pub: 20 minutes

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Given that we had been there for lunch earlier in the day, and that we were running well behind schedule, we made the communal decision to dive into Hyde Park Pub for a shot and then carry on our way. Probably the most popular pub among students, the prices are low, the atmosphere is lively and the beer garden is great, so all in all a definite favourite, but be prepared to fight for your place at the bar.

Price of a pint: £2.80

Beer garden rating: 7/10

Overall rating: 7.5/10

12. The Library Pub, 8.35 pm.

Distance from the previous pub: 10 minutes

Xannie Marmion

Xannie Marmion

The Library is a glorious pub, partly because of its location in the park, and partly because the building is so fantastic. The selection of booze was vast and nothing was too expensive, so we decided to commit to a pint each, followed by a shot. Needless to say, this is where my memory starts to fail me, but I do remember that the beer garden wasn’t really a beer garden, more a few benches on the pavement, which we were perfectly happy with at the time.

Price of a pint: £3.00

Beer garden rating: 4/10

Overall rating: 7/10

13. The Pack Horse, 9.15 pm.

Distance from the previous pub: 3 minutes

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What at first appears to be mood lighting was quickly revealed to be a guise for the sticky floor and ancient décor. Yes, it was cheap, but it wasn’t what we were after this far down the line, so we moved on in search of something more exciting.

Price of a pint: £2.80

Beer garden rating: N/A

Overall rating: 2/10

14. Old Bar, 9.30 pm.

Distance from the previous pub: 5 minutes

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Old Bar is the scruffy older brother of the other bar in the Leeds University Students’ Union, but its homely feel is what keeps students coming back. It couldn’t be a more traditional pub, with bar stools, pool tables and a long list of ales to match. Also, the staff were incredibly friendly, especially given that we weren’t the quietest of customers.

Price of a pint: £3.10

Beer garden rating: 5/10

Overall rating: 6/10

15. Terrace, 9.55 pm.

Distance from the previous pub: 20 seconds

Xannie Marmion

Terrace is the perfect blend of swanky and student friendly – marketed as a cocktail bar, it’s definitely the most up-market option for food and drink in the Union, but with students pouring through it at all hours of the day, its really just a nice place to sit, especially when its warm. We loved it.

Price of a pint: £3.10

Beer garden rating: 8/10

Overall rating: 8/10

16. The Fenton, 10.30 pm.

Distance from the previous pub: 7 minutes

Xannie Marmion

Xannie Marmion

The Fenton looks like every other small, dark pub, and after 15 much better ones, we really weren’t that interested. We had much more fun trying to navigate our way there than we ever did inside, especially given that at least three members of the team had lost the ability to stand. Sorry Fenton.

Price of a pint: £2.95

Beer garden rating: N/A

Overall rating: 3/10

17. Strawberry Fields, 11.05 pm.

Distance from the previous pub: 30 seconds

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Strawbs is a family-run bar, so I can only respect them greatly for putting up with hoards of Otley Runners on a permanent basis. With the cheapest beer of the entire day, we toasted to the owners for ignoring glitz and glam in favour of a bit of atmosphere, and then to ourselves for still being alive, before heading to the final stop.

Price of a pint: £2.60

Beer garden rating: N/A

Overall rating: 6/10

18. Dry Dock, 11.45 pm.

Distance from the previous pub: 5 minutes

Xannie Marmion

Xannie Marmion

We made it to the end relatively unscathed, however we were a few men down. The only thing that made that feeling even more glorious was Dry Dock itself – its a bar in a boat, how great is that? It was full to the brim with other people who were just as proud of themselves as us, and we felt safe in the knowledge that everyone around us was just as pissed as we were. For this reason, Dry Dock steals the Otley Run trophy of excellence, but I’m not sure I was the same judge as I was when I set out.

Price of a pint: £3.20

Beer garden rating: 9.5/10

Overall rating: 9/10

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