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Skating at the palace

The ice rink at Hampton Court Palace has opened, and Muddy was among the first on the ice.

There’s something incredibly romantic about the idea of ice skating under the sky, the sun squinting between the naked limbs of the trees that line the nearby Thames, and a regal 16th century castle that used to be Henry’s old house looming in the background.

I’m less Torvill and Dean – more Bambi on ice – when it comes to putting those bladed boots on my trotters. But it doesn’t matter – in this setting I don’t care what muscle groups I’m rediscovering, it’s really is quite magical. And after sundown, it’s even more so as the Tudor castle gets all dressed up in a rainbow of colour lights.

None of the Muddy Surrey’s are particularly nimble on the ice. We’re too tall to be that co-ordinated – but after a lap or two of the rink hugging the outer railing each of us gained enough confidence to let go and by the end of the 45 minute session we were gliding around the rink, albeit at a pretty slow pace.

And what’s even better is that we weren’t the only ones. Very few of the other skaters looked like pros – so we didn’t feel disheartened or dispirited. This is a fun and easygoing venue and I couldn’t recommend it more to get you into the festive spirit.

There are some lovely restaurants and cafes nearby – so combining a skate with lunch or dinner is a cinch. We nipped across to Canela, a cute little cafe just over the bridge at number 5 Creek Road, East Molesey. They serve a mean Tostado con avocados (and it’s a steal at just £5.50), as well as other light bites, lunch options and cake. Tell them Muddy sent you!

Here’s what you’ll need to know:

  • Session times are 45 minutes. If you skate only at Christmas, or only every second or third Christmas, this is plenty long enough. It’s best to book in advance.
  • You’ll need to arrive about 30 minutes before your time slot to give you time to get your skates on, and fitting correctly. They have a quick and clever system for handing out the skates, with your own shoes being stowed in the cubby hole the skates have been taken from. There is also cloak room (£1 an item) and small lockers (£2 each) to stow bags or handbags.
  • If you’re a total novice or you have very young children, book an earlier slot on the weekends. The 9am and 10am times are recommended for beginners. The sessions from 11am-7pm are for all ages and skill levels, and if you need a penguin to help keep you upright, you’d better avoid the 8pm and 9pm sessions, are these are penguin-free zones! The cost for these during other sessions is £5 per penguin.
  • Designated ice guides on hand to help you up when you tumble and check you’re okay.
  • There’s a cafe on site – The Pie Man – serving cold and hot drinks and snacks – so you can warm up (or cool down) after your skate.
  • There’s car parking at the palace. The cost is £1.60 an hour. Alternatively, on weekends you can park all day at the Hampton Court Palace station carpark for £6.

Hampton Court Palace Ice Rink is open every day except Christmas Day until 7 January. Cost is £14 adults (age 16+), £12 teenagers (13-15yo), £10 children (3-12yo), £40 family of four, £21.50 skate and Prosecco (18+ only). The cost includes skate hire. Book here.

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