Outdoor ice skating
Don your winter woollies and find England's best places to skate
Whether you’re sure-footed on ice or are a bit more like Bambi, lace up those skates and step out for some Christmas fun with outdoor ice skating! With pop-up ice rinks becoming firm winter favourites in many English cities, ice skating is a unique way to get festive. These city-centre ice rinks are often tucked in among elegant buildings and grand old architecture, promising a beautiful backdrop to the season’s celebrations.
Here are a few ice rinks where you can take a break from the shopping and glide as gracefully as you can out into the crisp winter air.
This is the UK’s largest open air ice rink. This means if you veer off at some unexpected vector, you’ve plenty of room to recover your composure, or, if it’s crowded, an excellent selection of new friends to clutch at spectacularly. Right at the heart of Leeds city centre, this rink gives you all the Christmas atmosphere and shop-and-skate potential you could want.
When: 25 January to 24 February 2013
With open-air ice skating, setting is everything. Skate amid the winter wonder of Hampton Court Palace and marvel at the maze and gardens all silvered with a layer of frost. The rink is just outside the West Front of the palace, so you can enjoy stunning panoramic views and an enchanting Christmas atmosphere.
When: 1 December 2012 to 13 January 2013
If you need a break from Christmas shopping, this open-air ice rink is conveniently situated right in the centre of Winchester’s Christmas market. Glide and weave at leisure while the crowds mill about you and the Christmas lights sparkle overhead. It’s also just in front of the gorgeous Winchester Cathedral, making for a super-magical experience.
When: 22 November 2012 to 6 January 2013
Could this be the most modest use of the word ‘pavilion’ on record? Brighton’s Royal Pavilion rink is right in front of the stunning Indian-style palace at the centre of the city. The location couldn’t be better. Not only is the scene magical in the extreme, with Indian domes and spires reaching up into the winter sky, but you’re nestled right between Brighton’s quirky shopping hotspots, North Laine and The Lanes.
When: 10 November 2012 to 20 January 2013
Get out on the ice at this award-winning rink just outside York. Christmassy wooden cabins line northern England’s largest outdoor ice rink and with a funfair, reindeer, 30ft tree and a Christmas grotto featuring a large man with a taste for red clothing, everyone will have a great time. There’s even a very conveniently located designer outlet… you know, just in case.
When: 24 November 2012 to 6 January 2013
Here’s a taste of old London elegance., Somerset House’s 18th-century courtyard has the oldest temporary ice rink in London. It’s beautifully lit and overlooked by a huge Christmas tree, and you can even pick up some mulled wine or hot chocolate to chase away the chills.
When: 16 November 2012 to 6 January 2013
Cornwall’s Eden Project is a collection of giant geodesic domes, overflowing with tropical gardens and incredible plant life. During the festive season the area outside the domes becomes a wintry Christmas tableau, complete with a spectacular ice rink and an incredible view of the brightly lit domes themselves.
When: 20 October 2012 to 24 February 2013
This ice rink sits just beside The Tower of London, one-time dungeon to conspirators of London’s past. It’s excellently located for a day of shopping and sightseeing; Tower Bridge, the London Dungeons and Southwark Cathedral are all within walking distance. It also has great views of the Thames, and the riverside buildings lit up for Christmas.
When: 17 November 2012 to 6 January 2013
Hyde Park’s spectacular expanse is the setting for another fabulous year of ice-skating this Christmas. But that’s not all. You’ll find toboggan slides, Christmas markets and cafés all around the rink, so you can hop on and off the ice at your leisure. There’s even a Ferris wheel and a host of fairground rides, ideal for taking in the whole scene from high up.
When: 23 November 2012 to 6 January 2013
With a museum full of dinosaur bones right next door to this ice rink, if you run between the two fast enough it’ll feel like a mini-ice age is happening. Or, you could just enjoy the Christmas lights swirling above and the lively festive atmosphere as you skate in this brilliant location, with a host of other London attractions clustered around you.
When: November 2012 to January 2013