The ice rink at Somerset House in London opens next week for its 10th anniversary season, marking a decade since it kick-started the transformation of the British winter social scene. Now, when the temperature drops, city centres and historic houses become twinkling winter wonderlands. Most rinks offer children’s sessions, evenings for adults – and hot chocolate. Here is our pick of the five most memorable locations for winter skating.
1. Somerset House, London
More than 1m skaters have taken to the ice in the grand 18th century courtyard on the north bank of the river Thames since its opening in 2000. There’s a café selling cupcakes and Tiffany jewellery, and competition sessions – skating to Tchaikovsky, the most balletic skaters will win a pair of tickets to ENO’s production of The Nutcracker. Afterwards, catch up with culture at the Courtauld Gallery’s art collection, within Somerset House.
November 23-January 23, tickets start at £10.50, www.somersethouse.org.uk
2. Royal Pavilion, Brighton
The location of this new rink outside the Brighton Pavilion is superb. As you would expect in “London-on-Sea”, the skating experience comes with cosmopolitan extras – a crèche and a rinkside restaurant run by an award-winning local chef.
Until January 16, tickets start at £9.50, www.brighton-hove-rpml.org.uk
3. Princes Street Gardens, Edinburgh
The outdoor rink here, opening next week, will be one of Europe’s largest. It’s set among a sprawling collection of Christmas-themed food stalls and fairground rides (including the splendidly titled Bungy Snowdome – bouncing on elastic inside a giant snowball). Beyond lie marvellous views of Edinburgh Castle and the city, lit up for Christmas.
November 25-January 4, tickets start at £8.50 for adults and £5 for children under 5, www.edinburghsicerink.com
4. Hampton Court Palace, Surrey
The rink opening next week at Hampton Court is set against the atmospheric backdrop of Cardinal Wolsey’s red brick Tudor palace with the Thames right next door. It has all the ingredients for a perfect skating location: beauty, history, a variety of food vendors – and plenty of fairy lights.
November 27-January 9, tickets start at £10, www.hamptoncourticerink.com
5. Spinningfields ice rink, Manchester
Nestled among the office blocks of Manchester’s new business district, Spinningfields, this rink is a very urban destination, with “cheapskates” student nights to attract the trendy crowd. Even so, skaters can’t escape the rustic: there’s a log cabin bar and restaurant.
Until January 3, tickets start at £7.50, www.spinningfieldsicerink.com