More than 92,000 flock to Edinburgh's Christmas festival ahead of ice rink unveiling

More than 92,000 people have flocked to the opening week of Edinburgh’s Christmas festival.

Monday, 22nd November 2021, 12:03 pm
Updated Monday, 22nd November 2021, 10:22 pm
Artist Hannah Ayre has created a new art installation for The Mound for Edinburgh's Christmas festival.

Organisers revealed the figure ahead of the return of the city’s famous ice rink in its new location on George Street, four days later than planned.

They blamed supply chain issues and logistical challenges for the hold-up with the unveiling of the “Lidl on Ice” attraction.

Drone footage has revealed how the ice rink, which has been brought to Edinburgh from Belgium, looks from the sky in its new home.

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Edinburgh's Christmas ice rink will open to the public today. Picture: Liam Anderstrem

The ice rink, controversially ousted from St Andrew Square following protests from businesses about its impact on its historic garden, has made a comeback after a three-year absence.

The ice rink opened ahead of the unveiling of a striking new light installation on The Mound which was commissioned for this year’s Christmas festival.

Edinburgh-based Hannah Ayre’s snowflake sculptures have been installed around the tree which has been donated to the city from Hordaland, in Norway, every year since 1949.

Underbelly, which produces Edinburgh’s Christmas and Hogmanay festivals on behalf of the council, hailed the opening weekend of events as “a huge success.”

The west end of George Street has been transformed by Edinburgh's festive ice rink.

The Christmas event alone has previously been valued at nearly £119 million to the economy.

Running until 4 January, this year’s event has expanded into a new site in West Princes Street Gardens as part of plans to spread its benefits across the city centre and ensure it is as Covid-safe as possible.

The attractions in the west gardens include Santa Land, Santa’s Grotto and a Christmas tree maze, while the ferris wheel and the “star flyer” ride have returned to their traditional sites beside the Scott Monument.

The Lidl on Ice attraction was given the go-ahead by the city council despite protests from heritage campaigners about its possible impact on the surrounding landscape and neighbouring businesses.

Edinburgh's Chistmas festival returned at the weekend.

A spokesman for Underbelly said: “There was a slight delay with the transportation of the ice rink from Friday as you say, in line with general supply chain and logistics challenges occurring across the board.”

Around 80 stalls and bars will be run by for 12 hours a day in the two historic gardens, George Street and on The Mound precinct during the festival.

Underbelly directors Ed Bartlam and Charlie Wood said: “Our opening weekend was a huge success and it’s been great to see everyone spreading the Christmas cheer – at long last!

"We’re so excited to unveil our spectacular new ice rink - it’s set to become an icon for the city and for Scotland of how to celebrate winter.”

The west end of George Street is now home to Edinburgh's Christmas ice rink. Picture: Liam Anderstrem

Roddy Smith, chief executive of city centre business group Essential Edinburgh, said: “After such a difficult period for our businesses, everyone is hoping for a bumper festive period with thousands coming into the city to celebrate in a Covid safe environment.

"The period through Christmas and Hogmanay is crucial for these businesses and of course for our residents and visitors.

"There are few better places to enjoy Christmas than in our city and we look forward to welcoming everyone safely in.”

Underbelly, one of the biggest producers at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, has had a contract to run the winter festivals since 2017. A new tender is expected to be issued within the next few months for events from 2022-23 on.

Drone footage has captured Edinburgh's ice rink at its new home on George Street.
More than 92,000 people visited Edinburgh's Christmas festival over the weekend.