Skate in a moat, play ten-pin bowling on ice or enjoy a festive tipple in an ice bar: the UK’s best holiday-on-ice experiences this winter – and how not to fall over too much
Ice skating tips for beginners
Don’t lean backwards
Keep your weight slightly forwards. Your knees should be slightly bent, so that they are over your toes – but keep your upper body almost upright. (You’re trying to avoid falling backwards; but you are also trying to avoid falling forwards!)
Keep your feet apart
To start with, keep your legs further apart than you would for walking on dry land: your skates should be about the same width apart as your shoulders.
Get used to the feeling of skating by gliding
Take a step with your right foot, placing the inside edge of your skate on the ice; then a step with your left. Let your momentum of each step carry you forward a metre or two, before repeating.
Take it up a notch
Once you can step-and-glide, see how long you can glide for after pushing off for each step, first on your left foot and then on your right. Try to get away from the rhythm of walking and into the slower rhythm of skating: let the ice do the work.
Easier said than done, but the more confident and physically relaxed you are, the easier it will be.
Make sure you have the right skates
Yes, they need to fit but also, be aware, hire skates may not always have been recently sharpened. If you are sliding all over the place, it may not be entirely your fault. See if you can swap them for another pair.
The best pop up ice-skating experiencesTower of London
Tower of London, EC3N until 2 January. 11–9pm weekdays, 9am–10pm Saturdays, 9am–9pm Sundays
Huge pop-up rink in the moat – the actual moat! – of one of London’s most famous landmarks”. Inevitably, something so magical gets seriously busy, so book ahead and turn up well in advance of your booking slot
Adults £14.50, Children £10.50, families £42.
Winter Wonderland, Hyde Park, London W2. 10am–10pm
Skate around the bandstand in Hyde Park to live music on what organisers claim is the largest outdoor rink in the UK And all in the middle of the Winter Wonderland. Could it be any more Chritsmassy? Sessions are 50 minutes long and begin on the hour.
Adults from £9.50, children from £7.50, famillies from £30 (off-peak)
Town Square, Basildon. Until 24 December, 10am–4pm daily
Free skate hire and skating in 20-minute sessions all the way until Christmas Eve. Meaning you can get a return rail ticket from London to Basildon and still spend less than you might going to the Tower of London’s (admittedly more iconic) rink…
20-minute sessions. Free
Brighton Pavilion. Until 14 January, 10am–10.15pm daily
The self-styled “most beautiful ice rink in the south east” certainly has a strong claim to the title”: it’s set against the backdrop of the Royal Pavilion, the Prince Regent’s bonkers/exotic domed palace. The rink-side Bar & Kitchen is open all day, offering stone-baked pizzas, Sunday lunches, local ales, 14 different gins, mulled wine and a kids’ menu. Something for everyone.
Hour-long sessions. Adults from £10, children from £7, families from £30 (off-peak)
Bournemouth Lower Gardens, BH2. Until 2 January 2018
Beautifully set within the illuminated gardens between the town and the beach, Bournemouth’s pop-up ice rink has a younger sibling this year: a new, daytime children’s rink that in the evenings is used for ‘Gliders’ ice bowling – a combination of 10-pin bowling and curling, with a bar attached. Get cosy in its alpine bar afterwards for a hot chocolate or stein of beer.
Adults from £9, children from £7, families from £28 (off-peak)
Living Museum of the North, Beamish. Until 25 Feb 2018
For a retro Christmas experience, check out the 200 square-metre ice rink decorated in a traditional Edwardian style with ‘festoon’ lighting (like lightbulbs on a string) with fairground organ music. All set within the brilliant open-air museum, recreating Northern life at three points in history.
Sessions of at least 20 minutes. Adults from £5. One child skates for free with every adult ticket.
Old Market Square, Nottingham. Until 31 December. 11am–9pm (10pm at weekends)
Many of the UK’s pop-up ice rinks have après-ski-style bars attached, offering hot chocolate or something stronger. But Nottingham’s Winter Wonderland goes one further with an additional bar made entirely of ice, featuring ice sculptures – penguins, owls, whales – all carved out of 15 tonnes of fresh ice. Organisers describe the vibe as ‘Narnia-esque’. You can even have a vodka shot from a glass made of ice. (Note, though, that the ice bar has its own, separate admission price).
York Designer Outlet, Fulford
At 975 square metres, the largest pop-up rink in the north of England is set within Yorkshire’s Winter Wonderland, complete with Alpine chalets, vintage fairground rides, Santa’s grotto and lots of value shopping opportunities.
One-hour sessions. Adults £10.95, children £9.95, families from £28.50. Winter Wonderland packages also available.
St Andrew Square, Edinburgh
Until 6 January, 10.15am–9.30pm
Not so much a traditional ice rink as a kind of circular skating track, taking you on a lap of the Melville Monument in Edinburgh City Centre, right in the middle of the Christmas lights. Looks crazily festive and has a bar attached.
45-minute sessions. Tickets from £5.
Cardiff Winter Wonderland, City Hall Lawns. Until 3 January
Cardiff’s Christmas ice rink is under cover, so you can skate in all weathers and, at 20m x 40m, it’s one of the bigger pop-ups, too. Cardiff’s Winter Wonderland also includes an authentic bierkeller, alpine village and funfair
One-hour sessions. Adults from £8.50, children from £7, families from £27 (off-peak, booked online)