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The Big Skate: outdoor ice rinks in London

Skating at Somerset House
The impressive surroundings are a draw for skaters at Somerset House

There's no doubt about it - London has experienced a boom in ice skating in recent years.

No longer do you have to wait for your local stretch of water to freeze over, or risk the roller derby effect of an indoor complex.

There are organised facilities available these days, with ice rinks in all manner of outdoor settings to suit all tastes and pockets - from family outings and Christmas get-togethers to office parties and skate-with-a-dates in search of speedy sprinting or careful gliding.

This year established favourites - Somerset House, the Natural History Museum - are joined by Winter Wonderland, marking its return to Hyde Park with an on-site circus.

Ice temperature affects skating speed - the colder the ice, the slower the skates will run

But plans to open a new 'ice track' at Wembley Stadium have been cancelled for now because of poor ticket sales.

The facility may have found itself in a location too remote for sightseers, shoppers and casual trippers, inadvertently underlining part of the appeal of the classic venues gathered here in our guide.

All of them charge considerably less for young children; they also offer lessons for beginners, either solo or in groups, and there are special sessions for students, wheelchair-users and the disabled.

Increasingly too, late-skates and DJ nights provide an alternative while rinkside cafes and eateries have grown more sophisticated, with special platforms and viewing 'galleries' for those who would rather sit the action out.

Broadgate Ice Rink

Best for: Ease of access, this small, circular rink is a few steps away from Liverpool Street station.

Broadgate Circle EC2. From Saturday 28 November (weather permitting) to Sunday 7 March 2010, 12noon - 2.30pm, 3.30 - 5.30pm & 6.30 - 8.30pm Monday to Friday, 10am - 12.30pm, 1.30 - 4pm & 5 - 7.30pm Saturday & Sunday. Prices from £8 adults, £5 under-16s.

Canary Wharf Ice Rink

Best for: Back for a fifth season with brand new sharpened high quality skates available in every size included in the price.

Canada Square Park, Canary Wharf E14. To Sunday 21 February 2010, 9.45am - 11pm Monday to Saturday, 9.45am - 7.30pm Sunday. Prices from £10 adults, £7.50 under-12s on 0844 847 1556

Hampton Court Palace Ice Rink

Best for: Ice Guides are available to escort groups of up to 15 skaters in hourly sessions on the ice.

Hampton Court Palace, East Molesey, Surrey. From Saturday 28 November to Sunday 10 January 2010, 10am - 10pm daily. Prices from £10 adults, £7.50 under-17s on 0844 412 4641

Lee Valley Ice Centre

Best for: Skating for a maximum of 800 per public session; the site has free parking for up to 500 cars.

Lea Bridge Road, Leyton E10. 11am - 3.30pm Monday; 11am - 3.30pm & 5pm - 7pm Tuesday; 11am - 3.30pm Wednesday; 11am - 3.30pm & 8.30pm - 10.30pm Thursday; 11am - 3.30pm, 5pm - 7pm & 8.30pm - 10.30pm Friday; 10am - 12pm, 2pm - 4pm & 8.30pm - 10.30pm Saturday & Sunday. Prices from £6.60 adults, £5.60 under-16s/concs on 020 8533 3154

Natural History Museum Ice Rink

Best for: A new, 1050-square-metre rink, with a smaller 100-square-metre rink for younger skaters.

Natural History Museum, Cromwell Road, Kensington SW7. To Sunday 17 January 2010, 10am - 10pm Monday to Friday, 8.45am - 10pm Saturday & Sunday. Prices from £11.50 adults, £8 under-12s on 0844 847 1576

Somerset House Ice Rink

Best for: The 18th century courtyard provides one of the most impressive skating backdrops in town.

Somerset House Ice Rink, ongoing to Sunday 24 January 2010, Somerset House, The Strand WC2, daily 10am - 10.15pm. Prices from £10.50 adults, £7.50 under-12s on 0844 847 1520

Tower of London Ice Rink

Best for: The rink in the dry moat has views of London's ancient, historic fortress.

Tower of London, Tower Hill EC3. To Sunday 10 January 2010, daily 10am - 10pm. Prices from £10 adults, £7.50 under-16s on 0844 412 4636

Winter Wonderland

Best for: Stunning when lit up at night; Giant Wheel and Zippo's Circus on hand to revive any flaggers.

Hyde Park, Serpentine Road W2. To Sunday 3 January 2010, 10am - 10pm daily. Prices from £10 adults, £7.50 child, various packages available on 0844 847 1771


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