Edinburgh unveils plans for festive celebrations in New Town

Huge ice and snow sculptures of Robert the Bruce, Mary Queen of Scots, Dolly the Sheep, Greyfriars Bobby and the Loch Ness Monster will be brought into the heart of Edinburgh’s New Town for the festive season. A “frozen museum” will be created at the west end of George Street as part of a major overhaul of the city’s winter festivals.

Kelpies, Highlands cows, Vikings and Eagles will be among the other “Scottish icons” turned into works of art for The Ice Adventure, which will run until Christmas Eve. The new ticketed event billed as an “immersive walk-through experience”, will replace the popular Street of Light installation, which attracted more than half a million people to George Street and the Royal Mile in the last two years.

And one of Edinburgh’s most prominent buildings will be turned into a giant advent calendar as part of a drive to ensure attractions are more spread out around the city. Historic images of Edinburgh in winter will be projected onto the face of General Register House, the national archive building at the corner of Princes Street and the Bridges, in the run-up to Christmas.

Underbelly, which is producing the Christmas event for the fifth time, has confirmed that the city’s popular festive ice rink will be allowed to return to St Andrew Square, despite a controversial ban on Fringe shows in the summer, for the duration of the seven-week festival. However, the Famous Spiegeltent, the popular Fringe venue ousted from the historic garden in August, will be making a comeback elsewhere.

A special festive edition of La Clique, its popular late-night cabaret show, will instead be staged in Festival Square. Other initiatives will see one of the city’s trams transformed into the festive season by schoolchildren who will be able to help redesign its branding. Young people will also be creating special window displays for St Giles’ Cathedral and several outlying parts of the city, including Leith, Craigmillar, Wester Hailes and Drumbrae.

Underbelly is joining forces with Hamilton Ice, producers of The Ice Kingdom event in London’s Hyde Park in recent years, to create the new attraction for George Street, which will open on November 17 and run until Christmas Eve. Underbelly director Ed Bartlam said: “We’re really excited about The Ice Adventure, which is essentially a frozen museum which will take people through the iconic people and parts of Scotland.

“We’re going to be producing it with Hamilton, who are amazing ice sculptors, and it will be our big new attraction this year. “We’ve had great success with Street of Light over the last two years, but we decided we wanted to do a big new free event. “We will be turning General Register House into a massive advent calendar celebrating the winter through the years.

Every evening between 5 and 10 pm we will reveal a new window and a new image from Edinburgh’s winter history.” More than 700,000 tickets were sold for Christmas events last year, compared to nearly 470,000 during the previous event. It is estimated there were 3.8 million visitors to the main sites at St Andrew Square and Princes Street Gardens.

Underbelly has confirmed that a special 20 percent discount for local residents, which accounted for more than 130,000 tickets last year, will be repeated. There was huge controversy earlier this year when it emerged that Fringe venues would not be allowed to operate in St Andrew Square due to concern from major properties about the damage that was being done to the garden from big events.

However, Underbelly director Charlie Wood said the agreement had been reached with the square’s owners for the ice rink to return for the forthcoming festive season at the beginning of this year. He added: “It’s great that a beautiful square like this is going to be in use at Christmas. We only used the centre circle of the garden for the ice rink and the bar last year.

The green space outside that was left untouched.” Mr Bartlam said: “The ice rink is actually unique to St Andrew Square. We designed it specifically with that space in mind. All the local stakeholders understand that.”