1. Ice Skating with Ravens

It's that time of year - Winter arrives, sites all over London put up ice rinks in their back gardens, and Londoners suddenly become convinced that they too can glide gracefully around on thin slithers of metal whilst retaining perfect balance and poise...

But with so many venues now sporting rinks, the real difficulty can be deciding where to go. This year I had heard that the Ice Rink at the Tower of London was worth checking out. I was initially skeptical - despite having lived in London all my life, I had only ever been to the Tower once before, and all I could recall were endless queues of tourists and some nonsense about ravens. But we booked, managed to drag ourselves out of bed on a Saturday morning... And were very well rewarded.

Although not a large site, the location more than makes up for this. Nestled up against the outer walls of the Tower, the views all around showcase what for me is one of the best things about London - its diversity of architectural styles. Across the river, Tower Bridge, City Hall and The Shard form an impressive backdrop whilst closer to hand the glass walls of the City contrast with the Tower itself as a powerful reminder of the history and the significance of the place.

We got there just as the sun came out, and quickly got booted up. The whole set up is very efficient, friendly and well organised. There was no waiting around, plenty of space to change, and the staff were really helpful. What followed was an hour of pure entertainment. Chill out music provided an apt soundtrack to our endeavours, and really made you feel you were gliding gracefully around. The ice marshals were very helpful, maintaining a relaxed yet vigilant atmosphere, and even providing handy skating tips. Strap on skates were available for children, and skaters were encouraged to wear wrist guards for extra protection, but given the family friendly atmosphere, we were never in danger of reckless skating. The sun shone beautifully the whole time and I only wish I had been able to take my eyes off the ice to make the most of the amazing setting.

An hour later, over a coffee from the bar overlooking the rink, we reflected that we might not be skating pros, but that if we were going to spend an hour flailing inelegantly round on the ice, we couldn't think of a better place to do it. If you're going to skate in London this winter, go to the Tower.

Need to know
Tickets: £12.50 for adults, £8.50 for children
Nearest tube: Tower Hill

TOP TIP the area is a bit of a desert as far as watering holes are concerned, but pop across the river to Shad Thames and there are a wealth of bars, restaurants and pubs to sustain you after an hour on the ice. Particular favourite is The Dean Smith 
just across the bridge.

Author: Lucy Cooper

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