For a festive treat, taking a spin on an outdoor ice rink is a magical experience for the whole family. Gone are the days when outdoor skating was something you only looked at longingly on US films; now skating rinks pop up every winter across the UK offering thrills for everyone - and occasional comedy spills too. As a parent, it’s a joy to see your children learning to skate, cheeks flushed with exertion and pride as they leave the grab rail behind and gather confidence and pick up speed with every circuit of the rink.
If you can, book a late afternoon trip so your kids can enjoy the experience of skating as night falls, surrounded by magical, twinkling fairy lights. Don’t forget to wrap up warmly with winter gloves and thick socks. Afterwards, reward yourselves with hot chocolates and mince pies, while you relive your best moments on ice.
The Royal Pavilion makes a stunningly impressive backdrop for your skating session. The smallest skate boot size is 25 (around three to four years old), but dual blades (‘bob skates’) which fit over shoes are available for younger skaters. Penguin skate aids are available on a first come, first served basis for smaller children. The rink-side restaurant offers a fantastic range of tempting dishes for younger visitors.
Club Rinkidinks, from 10-11am, is when children under five can skate for free when accompanied by paying adults.
Adult tickets £10- £13 ; £7-£8.50 for children under 12. Each session lasts one hour. For opening times and to book tickets, visit royalpavilionicerink.co.uk
Natural History Museum
Make a real day of it, with a skate session at the Natural History Museum, followed by a free trip inside the museum, or the neighbouring Science Museum or V & A. The rink's Gothic surroundings, rows of trees lit with fairy lights and a huge Christmas tree all make this an enchanting place to skate. Afterwards, the Café Bar and open air balcony offer tasty snacks and a bird's eye view of the rink.
Penguin aids are available for £5 on a first come, first served basis. Bob skates for younger children are also available. Penguin Skate Club runs lessons for children aged five to eight on Saturday mornings at a cost of £8.50 a child.
Adult tickets from £12.65; children under 12 from £8.80. Each session lasts 50 minutes. For opening times and to book tickets, visit nhm.ac.uk
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Situated in front of City Hall, next to a pop-up Alpine village and Christmas market and the family funfair, Cardiff's annual ice skating spectacle couldn't be more beautiful. To ward off bad weather but keep the outdoors feeling, this year the rink has a clear span roof and night skylights.
Penguin aids are available to hire, but the minimum skating age is three. Skate sessions last one hour.
Adults £9.50; kids aged eight to 16 £7.50; three to seven £3.50. To book tickets and check times, go to cardiffswinterwonderland.com
Yorkshire Winter Wonderland
Boasting that it's the north of England’s largest and best-loved outdoor ice rink, York's ice rink has a giant 30ft Christmas tree as its centrepiece and is surrounded by an illuminated forest, log cabins, a rinkside viewing platform and Alpine-themed café with blankets to snuggle under.
The funfair alongside offers a helter-skelter, traditional carousels, dodgems and Santa's Grotto.
Penguin and snowmen skating aids are for hire for £2, subject to availability.
Adults £10.45; children aged 16 and under £9.45 for one hour skate sessions. For opening times and to book tickets, go to yorkshireswinterwonderland.com
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This is the biggest outdoor rink in the UK at 1000m, with a Victorian bandstand in the middle. You arrive through an avenue of Christmas food and drink stalls and Alpine shops, and if you want to make a whole day out, the funfair has 100 rides, including some seriously heart-stopping ones.
Bob skates with twin blades are available for younger children, as are a limited number of penguin skate aids for £5. You can hire an 'ice guide' for £35, an experienced skater to help up to 15 of you gain confidence.
Adults from £9.50, children from £9.50. Prices increase at peak times. To book tickets and check times, go to hydeparkwinterwonderland.com
Beneath the Gothic spires of Winchester Cathedral, the Close is transformed into a sparkling ice rink. Each of the skate sessions lasts an hour, and for beginners there are trained stewards to keep you on your feet.
You can pre-book hot drinks and cakes at the Ice Rink Café Bar for an after-skate energy boost. For tickets and times, go to winchester-cathedral.org.uk
Manchester Ice Rink
In a new venue at the London Road Fire Station, this rink is in a stunning courtyard, complete with street food stalls and a Christmas market.
Sessions last for 45 minutes. There's no charge for penguin and seal skating aids, but it's first come first served for children under eight. Family-focused sessions are in the morning when ice marshals can provide hands-on assistance and skating tips.
Adult tickets are £10.95; kids aged eight to 18 are £8.95; aged three to seven, £6.50. For exact times and tickets, go to manchestericerink.co.uk.
Bath on Ice
Close to Bath's famous Christmas market, Bath's open air ice rink is a lovely spot with views over the park and Royal Crescent. If you want to add to the festive excitement, you can play glow in the dark mini golf before or after your skate.
Penguin and seal skating aids are pre-bookable online for £5 and bob skates for younger skates are available. You can pre-book your own ice marshal for £30 for the one hour skating session.
Adults from £8.75; children under 16 from £7.25. For opening times and to book tickets, go to bathonice.com
Nottingham Winter Wonderland
In the magical setting of Old Market Square, in front of City Hall, this ice rink promises lots of family fun. You can wander through the Christmas market and enjoy rides on carousels and the helter-skelter too.
Penguin aids cost £4 for under-12s on a first come, first served basis. Children under four are not allowed on the ice.
Adults £9.50; under 15s £8.50; under 12s £7.50. For times and to book tickets, go to nottinghamwinterwonderland.co.uk
Once you've perfected your glide, you can circle the Melville Monument on this circular ice rink in St Andrew Square. Double-bladed skates are provided for tiny feet, as well as skating aids for younger children at an additional cost when you arrive.
Tickets from £5. For more information and to book tickets, go to edinburghschristmas.com
. You can also book tickets for the Big Wheel to take in Edinburgh's amazing scenery, Santa's Grotto, a Christmas tree maze and a host of other kid-friendly treats.