Although ice skating is often thought of as a modern Christmas pastime, it has a long history in Britain.
Whilst it is now believed that ice skating probably emerged in Scandinava in as early as 1000 BC, in late Victorian Britain, ice rinks could be found across London and it was a favoured winter activity.
Victorian Ice Skating, from “Punch, or the London Charivari” in 1875 (Photo by: Getty Images)
During harsh winters, natural ice rinks formed and soon, there were even publications that acted as guides for the best places to skate. Unlike many other traditional activities of the time, women were allowed to join in – it was even encouraged that they skate, as it was one of the very few athletic activities it was considered acceptable for women to join.
If you want to have a go at this old winter activity, there will be ice rinks all over the country this Christmas.
Here’s our guide to the best places to ice skate in Britain this festive season
15th November – 5th January
Set in picturesque Royal Victoria Park, Bath’s popular rink has been expanded by 39 per cent this year to meet demand – it’s now 1000 meters squared, meaning there can be up to 240 people on ice per session! Visitors can also enjoy glow in the dark mini golf and a cafe with mulled wine, hot chocolate, soft drinks and more.
16th November – 24th December
Make the most of the Beamish Bazaar on your skating visit – there’ll be quirky gifts and traditional trinkets (Photo by: Getty Images)
The ice rink at the Living Museum of the North is suitably themed, decorated in a traditional Edwardian style with festoon lighting and fairground organ music too. Tickets are £4 for children and £5 for adults for at least a 20 minute session. You can buy your tickets on site on the day from the fairground ticket booth, and visit the Beamish Bazaar fo local festive food.
16th November – 4th January
Enjoy a 360 degree journey around St Andrew square (Photo by: Edinburgh’s Christmas)
Get your skates on and glide all the way round the Melville Monument on this circular ice rink in St Andrew Square. It’s just part of Edinburgh’s spectacular Christmas celebrations, which include a traditional funfair, market, ice sculpture trail, Santa’s grotto and more.
Tickets are from £5 and can be booked online, plus wheelchairs are welcome on the Ice Rink.
22nd November – 5th January
Skate under the stars at Hampton Court (Photo by: Hampton Court Ice Rink)
Skate back in time in the grounds of Henry VIII’s former residence, on the banks of the Thames. This year there is a bigger rink, and plenty of food and drink options for all the family. Tickets can be booked online.
19th October – 12th January
Feel fully festive at the Natural History museum (Photo by: Getty Images)
Skate surrounded by twinkling lights at this magical ice rink in London. Overlooked by the spectacular Victorian Gothic building that houses more than 80 million specimens from the natural world, this rink is festive and the perfect way to prepare for christmas. Tickets can be booked online, and there are discounts for families.
13th Nov 2019 – 12th Jan 2020
This year celebrates 20 years of Skating at Somerset House – it’s a must-do if you’re in London this Christmas. Set in the neo-classical courtyard of Somerset House, the ice rink is complete with a 40ft Christmas tree. There’ll also be seasonal shopping stalls and plenty of festive food and drink, plus the chance to get your hands on a hot baileys chocolate.
2nd November 2019 – Jan 19th 2020
Join a skate-a-thon or have afternoon tea at Brighton’s beutiful ice rink (Photo by: Royal Pavilion Ice Rink)
Overlooked by the impressive Royal Pavilion, Brighton’s ice rink is powered completely by wind and solar energy and has won awards for atmosphere. There’s a rinkside bar and kitchen, with mulled wine, hot chocolate, hearty burgers, pizzas and vegan options. Tickets can be booked online and purchased for groups.
21st November 2019 – 5th January 2020
The Christmas Market might be closed for another year but you can still skate until 2nd January 2019! YAY! http://bit.ly/2IMtjlC
Posted by Winchester Cathedral Christmas Market & Ice Rink on Friday, December 21, 2018
With a clear roof and open sides, Winchester Cathedral’s ice rink allows a flavour of the outdoors, while cunningly avoiding the worst of the British weather. The site has great views of the iconic cathedral and après-skating treats like mulled wine, hot chocolate and ginger shortbread.
Most of these ice rinks are closed on Christmas Day and availability and prices can vary – check the websites for details.