The Culture24 Guide to Winter Ice Rinks 2011

By Jenni Davidson | 23 November 2011
A photograph of a girl skating with a penguin skating aid in front of the Royal Pavilion in Brighton.
Royal Pavilion Ice Rink, Brighton
© Natural PR
All over Britain seasonal ice rinks spring up for a few weeks during the Christmas and New Year period. There's nothing like a spin around the ice to get you in the festive mood and since Pippa Middelton was spotted taking to the ice at Somerset House this week, ice skating is bound to be right on trend.

Here are Culture24's pick of the best places to skate under the stars at some of the UK's most iconic locations.

Edinburgh's Ice Rink, Princes Street Gardens, Edinburgh, November 24 2011 – January 4 2012

Edinburgh is one of the best cities in the UK to spend the festive season. It is famous for its Hogmanay celebrations, but it knows how to do Christmas too. The Christmas ice rink in Princes Street Gardens is just below Edinburgh Castle and set against the old town skyline.

Christmas lights around the gardens create a magical feel and, once you've finished your Torvill and Dean impression, there are always the Edinburgh Wheel, the German Christmas market and the Highland market to keep you entertained.

For more information and to book see the Edinburgh Ice Rink website.

Glasgow on Ice, George Square, Glasgow, November 26 2011 - January 3 2012

In front of the imposing City Chambers on the edge of the Merchant City, the whole of Glasgow's George Square is transformed into a winter theme park with its cheerful Christmas lights and open air ice rink.

As well as skating there are other events on offer, including curling classes, an observation wheel and a free festive film every Wednesday.

For more information and to book see the Glasgow loves Christmas website.

Skating@Life, The Centre for Life, Newcastle-upon-Tyne, November 12 2011 – February 19 2012

The ice rink is right outside the Life Science Centre in Times Square and a Skating@Life ticket includes entry to the Life Science Centre for a great combined day out.

The award-winning science centre has the biggest planetarium in the north of England, and inside the galleries there's an interactive Wallace and Gromit exhibition, as well as the permanent Human Life display. It's the perfect way to keep the kids happy for a whole day of the school holidays.

For more information and to book see the Centre for Life website.

Christmas at Beamish, Beamish Museum, Durham, October 22 2011 – February 19 2012

Beamish is infused with the spirit of Christmas past. As well as an outdoor ice rink, you can immerse yourself in Christmas as the Georgians, Victorians and Edwardians would have celebrated it.

Halls will be decked with real holly, open fires lit and chestnuts roasted. From traditional recipes and Christmas decorations in The Town and Pit Village to Twelfth Night celebrations at Pockerley Old Hall, Beamish offers a unique historical experience to accompany your skating.

For more information and to book see the Beamish website.

Nadolig Betws-y-Coed, Betws-y-Coed, Clwyd, November 26 December 4 2011

If you can't make it to the North Pole then North Wales may be a good second best. The picturesque village of Betws-y-Coed in the Snowdonia National Park is launching itself into the Christmas season with a week of festivities.

Snow isn't guaranteed, but there is a temporary ice rink in the centre of the village, plus a lantern parade, Christmas lights, live reindeer (including baby Dancer, born this year), choirs, a traditional funfair and falconry and circus skills workshops.

For more information and to book see the Betws-y-Coed website.

A photograph of Somerset House and ice rink at night.
Skate at Somerset House, London
© Bolton & Quinn

Skate at Somerset House, Somerset House, London, November 22 2011 – January 22 2012

Somerset House boasts the oldest temporary ice rink in London. The courtyard of the grand neo-classical building provides the setting for the ice rink and there is an appropriately luxurious feel to the rink.

The ice rink is run by Tiffany & Co and if you can't afford impulse buy jewellery, there are Tiffany tea dances and ice dance displays as well as chocolates and sweets in their trademark blue bags.

In January, dancers from English National Ballet will lead lunchtime warm-ups before ice dance coaches teach a skating routine to Gershwin's Strike Up the Band.

For more information and to book see the Somerset House website.

Tower Ice Rink, The Tower of London, London, November 19 2011 – January 8 2012

You wouldn't want to fall in the 1,000-year-old moat at the Tower of London, but fortunately there's no chance of that at the moment since it's been turned into a winter ice rink.

Skate beside one of London's most famous landmarks and contemplate what it would have been like to besiege the imposing walls of the fortress. Then, if you dare, you could go inside for one of spooky Tower Twilight Tours.

For more information and to book click the Tower of London website.

Natural History Museum Ice Rink, Natural History Museum, London, November 4 2011 – January 8 2012

This is one of London's top seasonal attractions, and it is in an ideal location if you're on a day out at the South Kensington museums.

Even if you don't want to skate, there's a great view of the ice rink from the café bar above and you can watch others falling over while you sit drinking hot apple cider or Viennese coffee.

For more information and to book see the Natural History Museum Website.

Hampton Court Palace Ice Rink, Hampton Court Palace, East Molesey, Surrey, November 26 2011 – January 8 2012

Outside Hampton Court, at the grand West Front of Henry VIII's lavish palace, there is temporary ice rink with a grand view. Inside the palace there's a chance to discover the historical side of a Tudor Christmas.

Between Christmas and New Year you'll be transported back to Christmas 1540 when Henry VIII and his new wife, Catherine Howard, celebrated their first Christmas together. In the Great Kitchen you can learn about what kings and queens would have eaten.

For more information and to book see the Hampton Court Palace Website.

Winchester Cathedral Ice Rink, Winchester, 24 November 2011 – January 2 2012

A lantern procession from The Great Hall to the cathedral on November 24 marks the opening of the annual Christmas market and ice rink at Winchester Cathedral and the beginning of the advent season in Winchester.

The Inner Close of Winchester Cathedral is transformed into a festive hub for the Christmas period. As well as the open-air ice rink and market set against the backdrop of the illuminated cathedral, there are of course many carol services and Christmas concerts in the cathedral itself.

For more information and to book see the Winchester Cathedral Ice Rink website.

A aerial photograph of Brighton Pavilion illuminated at night with the ice rink in front.
Royal Pavilion Ice Rink, Brighton
© Natural PR

Royal Pavilion Ice Rink, Brighton, November 12 2011 – January 22 2012

There could hardly be a better backdrop for some romantic skating than the Regency domes of the Royal Pavilion illuminated at night, but this ice rink is also particularly suitable for children, with a special fenced off area for them to learn in.

The Pavilion also has its own rinkside pop-up restaurant and wine bar, Feast, which has a festive menu of cocktails, mulled wine, fondue and even roast suckling pig, along with perfect view across the ice rink through its floor length windows.

For more information and to book see the Royal Pavilion website.

Ice Skating at Eden, Eden Project, St Austell, Cornwall, October 31 2011 – February 26 2012

Appropriately for an ecological centre, the Eden Project's ice rink has a glacial theme this year. Outside the skating tent, the massive geodesic domes and giant Christmas tree are lit up like Northern Lights against the night sky.

Eden's winter festival includes magical lantern parades, Cornish choirs, baking and making workshops and a chance to see the winning entries from this year's Wildlife Photographer of the Year exhibition.

As well as normal skating sessions it offers blocks of lesson and special sessions for experienced skaters and children.

For more information and to book see the Eden Project website.
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