HARD-pressed families are being asked to pay more for Edinburgh’s big-ticket Christmas attractions than in London – with a typical family of four being asked to splurge nearly £150.
The cost of ice skating, a trip on the Big Wheel and a few other activities in Edinburgh costs £100 if not booked in advance – but special family tickets mean revellers enjoying London’s Winter Wonderland Festival in Hyde Park pay just £38 for ice skating and £24 for the Giant Wheel.
The London deal has fuelled claims residents here are being taken for a ride by festival organisers, especially given that the Evening News probe has revealed it would cost nearly £150 for a family of four to enjoy a selection of attractions at the city’s winter festival.
Willie Black, leader of anti-poverty group North Edinburgh Fights Back, has slammed the shock charges.
He said: “Many people in Edinburgh can’t make ends meet. I don’t think that any family that I know, particularly those in Pilton and north Edinburgh, would be in the position to pay that kind of money.”
The Evening News has run the rule over admission costs for a standard family of two adults and two children to pay for the festival’s best attractions, including the Big Wheel, the Christmas tree maze and Speigeltent stage shows such as Little Red Riding Hood.
And the results show that families who go on or either the Big Wheel or use the ice skating rink to go with three other attractions can expect to spend at least £100 if they do not book in advance. Admission prices are more in some cases than London’s winter festival, which also charges £28 on a special family ticket to play in the Magical Ice Kingdom.
Skating on Edinburgh’s ice rink, which has this year been shifted next to the Scott Monument, will comparatively cost a family £42 on a weekend in December, while the Big Wheel will set them back £28. Glasgow’s Christmas ice rink is also cheaper, costing £33 for a family during peak periods. Either of the two child-orientated productions being shown in St Andrew Square will cost adults and children a minimum £12 each at peak times. Cheaper packages for multiple attractions and a universal 10 per cent discount are being offered for bookings made online.
However, campaigners concerned with the already inflated cost of Christmas have said the high costs for the festival, which starts tomorrow, cannot be justified.
Mr Black added: “The festivals are meant to be about tourists, but they are also about the people of Edinburgh sharing in the wonderful things happening. The festivals were always expensive, now they’re shockingly expensive and I don’t think we can justify it.”
The six-week festival is being run for the first time under a new partnership between London’s Underbelly and local firm Unique Events.
The organisers were jointly awarded the contract for both winter festivals, including Hogmanay, for the next three years in February, ending the six-year tenure for Durham-based firm She’s Gott It!
Essential Edinburgh chief executive Andy Neal said individual attractions were good value for money, but admitted it would be expensive for any family who chose to do four or more activities in a day. He said: “I’m sure it can rack up to [at least £100]. But there are plenty of things you can do that aren’t anywhere near as expensive and many of them are free, such as looking and enjoying the atmosphere.
“There won’t be that many families that will do the whole lot. It’s much more likely you’ll come in and do a bit of shopping, have something to eat and go on one or two rides.”
Organisers highlighted Sunday’s Light Night – a musical spectacle along George Street involving more than 1300 performers – and a Nativity concert on December 1 as an example of very affordable options.
The free event, including Christmas light switch-on with Sir Chris Hoy, is expected to attract 18,000 people to George Street. Families wanting to witness the traditional Christmas tree on The Mound and the wide range of markets will also not be charged.
Underbelly director Charlie Wood said: “This is a free event for 18,000 people in George Street to enjoy a great celebration and call Christmas in.” He added: “We are very proud to be re-vitalising Edinburgh’s Christmas and bringing several new attractions to the city, and we’re delighted to be able to do so at a price for customers which is either on a par with London or substantially cheaper.”
City festivals champion Councillor Steve Cardownie defended the arrangements, saying many of the rides lasted longer and were better quality than in past years. He said a family trip to the fair was not dissimilar to the cost of attending a Hearts game.
“Prices have risen,” Cllr Cardownie said. “We do want to keep the cost as low as we possibly can for families, but it’s got to stack up financially for the promoters as well or they wouldn’t do it. It’s a commercial venture supported by the council to boost the economy.”
Ice skating: £42
Big Wheel: £28
Christmas tree maze: £16
Santa train: £16
Bus day ticket: £7.50
Lunch for four: £20