Things To Do In Leeds

Things To Do In Leeds: Exploring The Owl Trail

Many travellers who stay at the Russel Scott Hostel in Leeds have gotten into owls recently. To outsiders that might seem a little strange. If you want to explore the city and find out about its history, however, following the owl trail has become something of a right of passage.

Covering 25 locations around Leeds, the trail was the brainchild of a couple of artists and officially opened in 2009. In the nearly 10 years since it started, thousands of people have followed the route, searching out owls in all parts of the city and learning a bit of history on the way.

What is the Owl Trail?

It’s actually two separate walks but you can choose to do both together if you’re feeling energetic. The Civic Owl Trail, starting from Millennium Square, has about ten locations to visit. The Grand Owl Trail has 15 and heads from South Parade. What you need to do is find different owls at locations around the city.

Be warned, these birds are varied and often difficult to spot, which is part of the fun. Some are hidden in the design of old buildings, others were added for the trail. Some are at eyelevel, others are high up on rooftops.

If you’re wondering why owls, it’s because they are on the 1626 coat of arms for the city, designed to celebrate a visit by Charles I.

What Can You See?

This is a good introduction to the city and a chance to learn a little more about the history and architecture. Some of the owls that you will spot along your journey include:

The owls guarding the Portland stone buildings at Fountain House. These are silver and were designed to resemble the original coat of arms.
The Yorkshire Penny Bank is another place where you will find some owls perched up on the building. These ones date back to 1900 and are a little difficult to spot among the ornate design unless you are really looking hard.
Not all the owls are sculptured. Some are set in glass, including the one found at what was once The Leeds and County Liberal Club but is now a posh hotel. Check out the stained glass windows and you’re sure to find it, eventually.
The Trinity Leeds Owl is certainly the quirkiest and newest on show, having been installed in 2013. The design combines both gold and silver and is particularly striking. You certainly won’t miss this one, even if you’re not out on the trail.
Another old owl (this time dating back to 1865) can be found in the masonry of the Leeds Museum and there’s also a cluster of birds hiding in the walls of St Anne’s Cathedral nearby.
All through the year, you will undoubtedly spot tourists, school children and even locals running around the Owl Trail, pointing up at buildings or furiously trying to find the bird hidden in the stonework of various historic buildings.

You don’t need a personal guide to take on the trail and it should last you a couple of hours as you wander around the city. There’s an easy to follow map you can download or pick up at your local tourist information site.

You can find out more about the Owl Trail here.

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