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Waterway watering holes: the Leeds-Liverpool Canal pub crawl

Written by
Jon Howe

If golf is a good walk spoiled, then a pub crawl is a good drink frequently suspended by the trek from one venue to another.

Most pub crawlers start their journey with a raging thirst, meaning you can quite easily forget about the walking part or taking in some scenery along the way.

With this in mind, the pub crawl along the Leeds-Liverpool Canal in West Leeds has a healthy concentration of pubs at the beginning (which serves the parched requirement), before a couple of lengthy stretches later on which make up the majority of your drinking expedition.

The Leeds-Liverpool Canal is supposed to be walkable throughout its entire length, and certainly the stretch from the Railway pub at Rodley through to the Kirkstall Bridge offers little of any taxing nature, other than its inherent distance. Indeed, the whole length has recently been gravel-covered, meaning it should remain walkable and hazard-free in pretty much any weather. 

Since we’re drinking pints, we should probably also measure distance in units that most of us understand, and therefore the 3.82 mile walk takes about one hour fifteen minutes of pure walking, broken up by any time spent in each of the six pubs en route.

Bear in mind, though, these are some of the best pubs in Leeds. Did we forget to tell you that bit?


Jon Howe

Along the winding, tree-lined route are several locks, plenty of sprawling greenery, some beautiful stone-built houses and numerous narrowboats of varying size, shape and states of decay. Plus there are some surprising oddities for the walkers, cyclists and joggers who pass by, including a charming collection of garden gnomes in someone’s back yard.

Even so, it is the succession of traditional Leeds hostelries that make this a leisurely afternoon excursion you'll never want to end.

Railway Inn

Jon Howe

The crawl kicks off in the cosy confines of the Railway Inn, just off the ring road at Rodley. Given that it resides a few yards from one of the busiest road sections in Leeds, the pub provides an oasis of calm and serenity. A pint of Golden Pippin next to a real fire is a fine way to start this ‘arduous’ trek.

A brisk stroll and a hop over the bridge takes us to the Rodley Barge, less than 500 meters away. Always a friendly pub with a good selection of beers (Leeds Brewery and Ossett Brewery), it has been joined once again by The Owl over the road, which has re-opened in recent months after a period of closure.

Rodley Barge

Rodley BargeJon Howe

You can then walk along Town Street to the Crown and Anchor, or go back over the bridge and walk along the canal to the next bridge along, which allows you to reach the same pub. Given this is a canal pub crawl, you should probably do the latter, as it's a five minute skip between pubs either way.

If time is against you, you can miss the Crown and Anchor or The Owl out, but make sure you have a toilet stop in whichever pub you visit last, because the next stretch to the Abbey Inn is a windy route of just over a mile.

The Abbey Inn is handily-placed just 50 yards off the canal on the left-hand side, before you reach Bramley Fall Park. The Abbey is one of Leeds’s hidden treasures and was recently crowned CAMRA’s Community Pub of the Year in 2015.

Abbey Inn

Jon Howe

Inside, a fine array of local ales from Ilkley, Leeds and Kirkstall Breweries compliment some guest cask beers to. There's plenty of inside and outside seating available, and if you’re lucky the occasional free bar snack appears. If we tell you that bowls of lovingly-cooked roast potatoes have been left on the bar for all to devour, you can gauge what kind of a pub we are talking about here.

Time tends to drift a little in the Abbey Inn, as it's warm welcome, comforting confines and extensive jukebox make it a restful retreat that's hard to say goodbye to.

But leave you must, and another toilet stop is advisable: the last leg is a bladder-busting 1.8 miles to the Kirkstall Bridge.

Abbey Inn

Jon Howe

Soon enough you'll see the imposing sight of the former Kirkstall Brewery buildings on either side of the canal – now student halls of residence. Once you go under the final bridge and see a car park on your left you can leave the canal side and hop across the road to the Kirkstall Bridge.

The well-appointed and faithfully restored flagship pub of the Kirkstall Brewery is yet another agreeable stop-off, with a fine selection of beers for all palates. Upstairs or downstairs bars await and if it’s a nice day take yourselves outside to the riverside beer garden, where you can rest your weary limbs and contemplate how you’re going to get home.

Kirkstall Bridge

Jon Howe

The Leeds-Liverpool Canal pub crawl can be extended to take in the West End on Kirkstall Road, or you can even continue along the canal into Leeds City Centre. Although, this is a good three miles with no canal-side pubs along the way.

It is hard to imagine there is a three and a half mile stretch of canal-side scenery in the whole of the UK that is served by six better pubs than the aforementioned establishments, and for an afternoon stroll during any time of the year, this canal pub crawl will delight, refresh and invigorate in equal measure.

Just stay a safe six feet wobble distance from the water’s edge at all times...

Ready for another pub crawl? How about the infamous Otley Run

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