Edinburgh Christmas ice skating review: 'It's so nice to be skating in Edinburgh again'
As a keen amateur figure skater, I have been lamenting the continued closure of Murrayfield Ice Rink since the pandemic began.
With no available ice in Edinburgh, those of us mad enough to keep going with our favourite sport have regularly travelled as far as Dundee, Stirling and Kirkcaldy to get the chance to skate over the past 18 months.
So when Edinburgh’s Christmas outdoor rink launched, we couldn’t wait to get our skates on and head down to George Street.
I dragged my friend Annabel Mansell – normally a competitive adult skater – away from her nearby office job during her lunchbreak.
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As it is a last-minute decision, she doesn’t have her skates with her – probably a good decision as temporary ice isn’t great for fancy skating blades – so she gamely opts to try out the hire boots.
On the rink, we run into some other Murrayfield skating friends, Ken Thomas and Flynn Moore, who had also popped down for some local ice.
While the rest of us are usually used to jealously watching Annabel spin gracefully across the ice with ease, in the plastic blue hire boots, it was like seeing Bambi walk for the first time. She bravely gives it a go for a quarter of an hour and after four spectacular falls due to the lack of edges on the blunt blades, calls it a day.
"It’s a really nice location,” she says, positively. “But I forgot my own skates, so I was in hire skates, which was pretty terrifying. I’ll probably come down again with my own skates and have another go.”
The layout of the rink, while perhaps not conducive to serious figure skating training, allows skaters to complete long laps along George Street, past refreshment stands selling tasty hot chocolate and churros, turning at the end around a Christmas tree.
Under strict lockdown last winter with all rinks across Scotland closed, my friends and I travelled across the Lothians in search of frozen ponds and puddles we could skate on – preparing us well for the slightly lumpy, uneven ice at the Christmas rink.
For most visitors, however, the quality of the ice is not a priority – they are here to enjoy a pre-Christmas, festive treat – and it certainly delivers in that regard.
The wooden bars and cafes lining the rink perimeter have an alpine chalet feel and lights decorate the bridge where friends and family not brave enough to get on blades can watch.
Friends Kelsay Fairlamb, 27, and Leigh Thompson, 32, from Newcastle are visiting Edinburgh for the day.
"We were just walking along and saw it, we didn’t even plan to come,” says Leigh.
Kelsay adds: “I feel like Bambi, I’m not very good at it at all.”
After Ken spends some time wowing admiring families with his jumps, we decide to warm up with a cup of hot chocolate.
"It’s been really fun,” says Flynn. “We usually skate indoors, so it’s nice to have somewhere festive and Christmassy to go. And the hot chocolate is very nice and warming. We’ve really enjoyed it.”
Ken adds: “With Murrayfield having been closed for the duration, it's so nice to be skating in Edinburgh again.”