For a few weeks of every year, part of the moat around the Tower of London is transformed into a frosty blue lake for skating upon. There are several ice rinks to choose from in London, but the Tower of London ice rink has to be one of the best. Giant whirling snowflakes are projected onto the walls that house the Crown Jewels, and which once imprisoned Anne Boleyn and Lady Jane Grey. You can practically feel the history oozing out of the walls, as you whizz around on the rink underneath.
We were invited to skate there last week, at a special session with Mothers Meeting. If you come from Tower Gateway tube station, as we did in the early evening last week, the majesty of the Tower hits you in all its lit-up glory as you walk down towards the Thames. A solid fortress of a castle, the Tower was built in 1078 by William the Conqueror and has gone through a series of transformations, from symbol of oppression to prison to – most recently – the site of a colossal sea of ceramic poppies, to commemorate the lives lost during the First World War. Over Christmas, when you turn the corner and head towards the river, the calm blue glow of the ice rink shimmers frostily underneath the city skyline, with City Hall across the water in the background.
It was the first time on ice for my two children, aged seven and four. To skate, you enter via a tent, where there’s a bar selling warming hot chocolate, European beer and soft drinks. An extra charge gives you entry to the Eis Haus, another bar made of ice and where you can snuggle up under blanket while sipping a gluhwein. We didn’t go inside this time, as there were even more exciting times ahead of us: joining us on the ice rink were some of the stars of Disney’s Frozen on Ice. Although my son claims he’s not interested in Frozen, the two children were fizzing with anticipation while they handed their shoes in at the skate-hire counter, and put on their boots (with some help from the friendly ice rink staff).
At the Tower of London ice rink you can hire penguins on ski blades, with handles that your children grasp onto for stability. If your kids haven’t skated before, I’d strongly recommend getting one of these. Although they’re a bit slippy-slidey, and my two still had their fair share of tumbles on the ice, the penguins gave them lots more confidence to stride out on their own. Plus, they’re super-cute.
My two were determined to go it alone with their trusty penguins, and we spent a happy 45 minutes slipping around and squealing. None of us noticed our frosty fingertips; we were having too much fun (Top tip: don’t forget your gloves, and a hat. The air around the rink is very cold).
The Disney Frozen on Ice team were brilliant with the kids; lively, encouraging and patient, with plenty of one-on-one attention. My daughter was even whizzed all the way around the rink at high speed by one of the actor/skaters – there’s not many four-year-olds who can say they’ve done that.
The multi-talented bunch treated us to a mini-performance at the end, some of which you can see in the little video I made of our evening. Spectacular stuff; I imagine the real thing, with full costumes and music, is a phenomenal sight.
Our two enjoyed their session at Tower of London ice rink so much that we’ve resolved to go back over Christmas. Sessions run every day until 3 Jan, and begin at 11am and end at 9pm. The cost is £13.50 per adult, £11.50 for children aged 13-15, and £11.50 for those aged 3-12. The price includes skate hire (you can wear your own if you prefer), but it doesn’ include the penguins, which are available on a first-come-first-served basis.
Have you been ice skating in London? Where did you go?
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