Otley Run

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A sign outside Stawbs Bar on Woodhouse Lane welcoming Otley Run revellers.
A butcher, a pig and a psychedelic gaggle of gals from 1969. With more and more stores offering fancy dress for hire, the streets of Headingley have become more and more Surreal.
A butcher, a pig and a psychedelic gaggle of gals from 1969. With more and more stores offering fancy dress for hire, the streets of Headingley have become more and more Surreal.

The Otley Run is a pub crawl in Leeds, West Yorkshire. The route shares much in common with the Headingley Mile (a similar crawl in LS6) but usually incorporating more pubs on the A660 road, typically those towards Leeds City Centre.

The Otley Run is seen as a rite of passage for students visiting or studying at Leeds[1][2] and is a popular social gathering for student clubs and societies from The University of Leeds, Leeds College of Music, Leeds Arts University, Leeds Trinity University, Leeds Beckett University and The University of Bradford Hockey Club. It also a common activity for birthdays and other celebrations among graduates and city residents.[3] Participants often wear fancy dress[4][5] and coordinate their costumes to a particular theme. It is also traditional for students of Leeds Grammar School, Lawnswood School, Roundhay School, Notre Dame Sixth Form College, Guiseley School, Horsforth School, St Mary’s School and Abbey Grange Academy Sixth Form to do the Otley Run on their last day, as well as students from Otley's Prince Henry's Grammar School Sixth Form, with their run usually including various pubs and bars around Otley as well as the Headingley Mile venues.

The enduring popularity of the Otley Run has inspired beer bottle designs,[6] a verse novella,[7] and artwork depicting the venues and scenery on the route.[8]

History of the route[edit]

Early incarnations of the Otley Run route covered considerably more of the Otley Road and followed it closely.[9] Influences on the choice of route over time include:

  • The original "Otley run", [10] in which pubs were opened for farmers' business use under provisions of the Licensing Act 1964. This allowed Otley pubs opening hours preferable to Leeds' [11] on market days[12], set out in relevant byelaws as on Monday and Friday [13]
  • Tetley's incredible popularity and copious Yorkshire pubs,[14] including The Oak Inn (Original Oak)[15] and a brewhouse at The Woodman (Woodies)
  • Students being able to include bars on University of Leeds and LMU union premises (which for a time were members' clubs and required membership cards to enter), on-site at residences such as Bodington Hall[16], and those at or near sports facilities (eg. The Stables at Weetwood Hall)
  • Former Bodington residents including main road pubs around Adel/Weetwood/Far Headingley, and similarly for venues near other popular residences over time
  • Changes in opening hours laws encouraging new bars to open in the "Headingley Mile" section and enhancing the appeal of those at the city centre end of the main road
  • Commercial interest from discount card providers looking to get their associated venues "on the route", from hen/stag party planners [17] and fancy dress shops advising customers on which pubs to visit, and from viral marketing campaigns involving Twitter feeds and web sites publishing route maps claiming to be official
  • Competition over claims to be the end point between various bars [18] [19] and clubs [20] beyond Woodhouse Lane

The tradition of starting an Otley Run early[21] predates The Licensing Act 1988's repeal of the law requiring pubs to close in the afternoon.[22][23] Prior to this, Otley's status as a thriving market town[24] having given it exemption from this law made it a popular start point. A journey covering the Tetley pubs[25] lining the main road would therefore pass or approach such sites as the University playing fields at Bodington Hall/Weetwood Pavilion,[26] as well as Carnegie stadium, Castle Grove Masonic Lodge, Associated Tower Cinemas' famous Lounge and Cottage Road cinemas, the site of the Skyrack wapentake Shire Oak[27][28] (now commemorated with a blue plaque at the Original Oak), Woodhouse Ridge, the site of Leeds Girls' High School, and Woodhouse Moor/Hyde Park. For students, an Otley Road pub crawl might start or end on University Union premises [29] and include the Bodington Hall on-site bar. [30]

As city centre pubs began to adopt the new longer opening hours, the northern end point of the popular route crept into Adel, Lawnswood, and Weetwood in keeping with the location of The Stables (at University-owned Weetwood Hall) and proximity of student residences such as Devonshire Hall, Bodington Hall, and Oxley. Starting around the ring road junction was also popular with student sports societies thanks to Bodington's playing fields and to Sports Park Weetwood[31] in particular, and Woodhouse Lane/Albion Street and city centre clubs offered end points for south-bound runs should drinkers not qualify as members or guests as required for access to student union bars at the time.

With the eventual closure closure of the halls at Weetwood, Cavendish, Tetley, and Bodington in favour of alternatives in and around city centre, the modern route choice ceased inclusion of central Weetwood and beyond, taking inspiration from the crawl associated with the Headingley Mile (the section of the A660 from the Hyde Park Hotel to the New Inn) which usually headed south from Woodies' Ale House; Woodies' (originally The Woodman, and technically in Far Headingley) was also conveniently close to the boundary served by cheap "Green Zone"[32] bus tickets. Newly opened pubs such as the converted Lounge cinema (Headingley) and Dry Dock (Woodhouse) were adopted to fill the gaps on the list, [33] [34] and many city centre bars and club nights began to jostle for position as the official end point.

Prior to the introduction of a strong student following the regulars at The Woodman would go to the town of Otley on market day. Market day was traditionally a Monday and the pubs were open all day. This was unheard of elsewhere due to the licensing laws where most bars closed at 3pm and opened round 5.30pm. The Woodman was a popular pub for Leeds Supporters, bikers and students from Carnegie College. The visits to Otley would be usually the hardened drinkers and guests who would be celebrating a birthday, wedding, birth of a child, new job or other. The all day session was then told by stories to the regulars on a Saturday in The Woodman. This is where the term "the Otley Run" came from. The hardened drinkers would also go from The Woodman down Otley Road calling at the Tetley pubs all the way into town. The good relationships between students and regulars of Headingley pubs emerged into a cult like following for the beer crawls. The Leeds supporters in The Woodman would on occasions (end of season / Manchester derby's) wear fancy dress. This transferred to the beer crawls and hence today as we know the fancy dress theme which is unique every weekend along the route.

The idea that followers of the modern run should start early and visit as many venues as possible rather than cover a greater area has caused upset with locals and prompted some pubs to turn away visitors in fancy dress and in obvious large groups. Proposed University accreditation schemes have also threatened to look unfavourably on heavily promoted pub crawl events with support from student unions. [35] [36]

Other university pub crawls[edit]


  1. ^ "The Otley Run".
  2. ^ Leeds RAG » Blog Archive » Halloween Otley Run Challenge Archived 2008-04-22 at the Wayback Machine
  3. ^ "Headingley's Otley Run is as popular as ever - Headingley Today". 17 May 2008. Archived from the original on 17 May 2008. Retrieved 2 January 2017.CS1 maint: BOT: original-url status unknown (link)
  4. ^ BBC - Leeds - Students - A piece of student culture
  5. ^ http://blog.otleyrunfancydress.co.uk/2013/03/31/doing-the-otley-run-in-fancy-dress/
  6. ^ "The Otley Run Co (Student Project) - Creative Package Design Gallery".
  7. ^ "Yorkshire Voice - Joe Williams book launch".
  8. ^ "The Otley Run (2020) Hand Drawn City Map Art | StavesArt".
  9. ^ "Leeds CAMRA Full Measure issue 128".
  10. ^ "The Real Otley Run".
  11. ^ "Otley Pub Club".
  12. ^ "Pubs | Welcome to Otley, West Yorkshire".
  13. ^ "Otley, West Yorkshire".
  14. ^ "History of Tetley's".
  15. ^ "Leeds: The houses that Joshua Tetley filled".
  16. ^ "Toasted Cheese Literary Journal".
  17. ^ "The Otley Run On Your Leeds Stag or Hen Party".
  18. ^ "Otley Run Info".
  19. ^ "The Dry Dock, Woodhouse Lane".
  20. ^ "The UK's lost nightclubs".
  21. ^ "The town that refuses to call last orders on its pubs - Telegraph".
  22. ^ "Which Town has the Most Pubs For its Size".
  23. ^ "Opening Hours for Licensed Premises".
  24. ^ "Putting Otley on the Pub Map".
  25. ^ "List of Joshua Tetley & Son Ltd. pubs".
  26. ^ "Weetwood Pavilion".
  27. ^ "THE Place to Meet in Leeds".
  28. ^ "Big Plans for Leeds pub refurbishment".
  29. ^ ""Alphabet City" - Leeds Student, 7th October 1988" (PDF).
  30. ^ ""The London of the North? Youth Cultures, Urban Change, and Nightlife in Leeds"" (PDF).
  31. ^ "Sports Park Weetwood".
  32. ^ "Green Zone Map" (PDF).
  33. ^ ""The Otley Run" - Leeds Student, 29th April 1994" (PDF).
  34. ^ ""Freshen Up" - Leeds Student Guide Issue, 26th September 2008" (PDF).
  35. ^ ""The Big Debate: No More Carnage?" - Leeds Student, 29th October 2010" (PDF).
  36. ^ "Otley Run under ban threat".

Coordinates: 53°49′14″N 1°34′37″W / 53.8205°N 1.577°W / 53.8205; -1.577