Edinburgh’s famous Christmas festivities got off to a flying start as revellers rushed to take advantage of a 20 per cent discount for locals.
Around two dozen skaters took to the St Andrew Square ice rink after it opened last night, and the new circular track has already run rings around last year’s efforts.
Even the inevitable lashings of chilly winter rain couldn’t dampen the crowd’s enthusiasm as the square’s 20 stalls, colourful carousel and brightly-lit helter-skelter sprang to life just after 6pm.
A special performance from community choir Edinburgh’s Got Soul soon had to contend with the shrieks and shouts of children slicing and swerving through the freshly-laid ice, while the night air filled with the warming smells of mulled wine and mince pies.
Mark Richardson and his two young children Abbi, seven, and Taylor, ten, had travelled through from Broxburn to be among the first on to the ice.
The 47-year-old said: “I’ve fought my way through the traffic to get here. The children are quite excited about it all – but I don’t skate.”
Taylor, who loves ice skating despite being blind, added: “I’m really excited. I just like skating – it’s probably been passed down to me because my mum likes skating too.”
And 32-year-old Laura Muir, from Bruntsfield, said the new EH Postcode Discount – which gives city residents 20 per cent off on many of the Capital’s biggest winter attractions – had been a big draw.
The mum-of-one added: “It’s good that it’s a bit cheaper – and it looks amazing, with all the lights and the new ice rink. It’s great.”
Last year’s Christmas events were marred by complaints expensive tickets were pricing out locals and driving away potential customers. But this August, the council announced costs were to be slashed and a new discount added in an attempt to combat criticism.
A half-hour session on the St Andrew Square ice rink costs £9 for adults and £5 for children.
Councillor Steve Cardownie, festivals and events champion for the city, insisted this year’s Christmas programme promised to be the biggest ever.
He said: “The ice rink in St Andrew Square is brand new for 2014, and part of the biggest Christmas programme ever in Edinburgh. While this ice rink is really for older children and adults, don’t forget the traditional set-up in Princes Street Gardens will also be open and it’s the perfect spot for families.”
A spokesman for Underbelly, which is running Edinburgh’s Christmas events, said: “We are very excited to be opening Edinburgh’s Christmas for a second time.
“There will be something for everyone at this year’s celebrations and we look forward to welcoming the people of Edinburgh to Edinburgh’s Christmas.”