All the ice rinks you could want
When I used to live in Canada, there was something really magical about grabbing a pair of skates and heading to the local park to skate on the ponds once the ice was thick enough. I really fell in love with outdoor skating, so I’m always delighted when the Christmas ice rinks start opening up every year. I’m not elegant by any means – don’t be expecting any triple Salchows or toe loops – but I’m always happy to spend an afternoon pottering around on the ice. There are a couple of local rinks in Herts this year, and lots further afield.
Go on, get your skates on!
Van Hage, Great Amwell, open now until 5 Jan
The Van Hage Garden Centre near Ware has opened up its ice rink for the 7th year. This year, there’s a heated marquee and café so you can warm up those frosty toes and fingers – and a clear skies cover, which means skating can carry on whatever the weather. Prices vary depending on the date and time, and it’s worth booking ahead – especially at peak times – but adult tickets start at £9.50 for an hour, and children skate from £7.50.
Watford’s Big Skate, The Parade, Watford, open now until 4 Jan
For the first time ever, seasonal skating is coming to Watford! The Parade, at the end of the High Street, has been transformed into an ice rink with real ice (hoorah!) and lots of festive fun. Sessions last 45 minutes – just long enough for you to feel it in your calves – and the ticket price includes skate hire. Tickets start from £7 off peak for adults, £5 for children, and are available from Watford Palace Theatre online or on 01923 225671.
Cambridge’s very own ‘North Pole’ has an ice rink big enough to hold up to 200 skaters – and it’s being billed as the most stylish rink in the whole of the UK. I’m hoping to head up there, but would love to hear what you think if you make it there too! There’s a decked terrace where you can watch, warming up with hot choc or mulled wine (no contest), and there’s plenty of other festive bits and pieces going on once your session on the ice is done – a carousel, themed rides and a winter food market. Tickets start from £9.50 for an adult, £7.95 for under 12s.
Frost Garden Centre, Woburn Sands, open now until 4 Jan
The rink at the aptly-named Frost Garden Centre near Milton Keynes is open seven days a week. Sessions are 45 minutes, although they reckon getting there a bit early to sort your skates out is a good plan. There’s a viewing area, the Moose Café – not serving actual moose, I imagine – and there are themed ice skating events going on as well, including a Disco on Ice on 19 December (get those glo-sticks ready!). General skating tickets are £8.99 for adults, £7.99 for under 16s, and £14.99 for an adult and an under-4 skating together.
Windsor on Ice, Alexandra Gardens, Windsor, open now until 4 Jan
It’s the 5th year that Windsor has taken to the ice, and the location sounds brilliant. They have a covered main rink as well as an outside skating track so you can get out there to enjoy the views. As well as the ice, there are other attractions this year, as well as a festive food court and an Ice Bar – so it’s a proper day out, especially if you pop down to the river or into the castle as well. And the main shopping centre in town is not even five minutes away — although perhaps a bit longer on those post-skating wobbly legs!
Natural History Museum, SW7 5BD, open now until 4 Jan
It’s the 10th year for the Natural History Museum ice rink, and it’s as lovely as ever. Lots of stalls with food and drink, and this year a Christmas chalet put on in partnership with Lindt – yes, there’ll be chocolate a-plenty! And all this with the museum and its 40-foot-high Christmas tree and more than 80,000 (count ‘em!) twinkly lights as the backdrop.
Somerset House, WC2R 1LA, open now until 11 Jan
This really is the ice rink to top them all — the Evening Standard claims it as ‘London’s favourite outdoor ice rink’ and even The Sunday Times gets all excited and calls it ‘the coolest rink of all.’ It is gorgeous – can’t beat that neo-classical courtyard for a setting – but that does mean it’s really popular. Definitely book ahead. There’s skating for all the family during the day, then club nights after dark – as well as post-skating cocktails or fondue. There are also extras like champagne and truffles, or a cream tea, at the Fortnum Lodge, as well as a pop-up Fortnums in The Christmas Arcade for some Christmas shopping. Gorgeous. Let’s go!
Eyeskate, London Eye, SE1 7PB, open now until 4 Jan
The London Eye – all lit and and sparkly – makes a great South Bank backdrop to the Eyeskate rink. Booking online is a good plan – and it’ll save you 10% — and the tickets start at £10.50 for adults, £7.50 for children, and £32.40 for a family of four, and go up at peak times.
Winter Wonderland, Hyde Park, W2 2UH, open now until 4 Jan
The Hyde Park Winter Wonderland is a bit of a family favourite and brings together all sorts of Christmas goings-on. The ice rink has you skating around the Victorian bandstand, which really adds to the atmosphere (and gives you something to hang on if needs be, I would imagine).
Ice Rink Canary Wharf, E14 5AX, open now until 28 Feb
If you don’t make it onto the ice before the New Year, you can always head to Canary Wharf where the rink – billed as ‘5 star’ – will be open right until the end of February. If you do make it there before Christmas, there’s also a Christmas market complete with little wooden chalets. More mulled wine — and quite right too!