Clare Lush - Author of My Tunbridge WellsIt’s become a family tradition of ours to spend a day leading up to Christmas in Royal Tunbridge Wells, sampling what this lovely town has to offer and getting us in a festive mood.

This year we started off with going along to a Parent & Toddler session at the Ice Rink in Calverley Grounds, which was something I had been promising to take the boys to since it opened a few weeks ago.

In 2014, the boys were happy enough to just watch the skating while last year my husband took my eldest son on the ice.

This year we tried it out as a family and despite some initial nerves from me (I haven’t gone skating since I was a teenager and was pretty terrible at it back then), we ventured onto the ice for our 30 minute session and never looked back! The beauty of the morning Parent and Toddler sessions (which take place at 9.45am and 10.15am) is that they don’t get too crowded and there are lots of staff members on hand to help out if needed.

Photo: Clare and family at the Ice Rink in Calverley Grounds

Thankfully both boys were happy enough to stay on their seal skating aids which I can confirm were really useful for the parents too - skating’s a breeze when you have a big orange contraption to keep you steady!

We whirled around the rink and had several races which my husband and eldest boy won - personally I think it’s because their legs are longer! I found it easier pushing my youngest boy around, though he got a little over-confident towards the end of the session and was trying to go ‘hands-free!’

Photo: Basil Pop Up Cafe at the Ice Rink by Clare Lush-Mansell

We finished off the skating with hot chocolate and brownies from the beautiful Basil pop-up cafe which is attached to the rink.

Ranging from £7 to £9.50 (for one toddler and accompanying adult) depending on when you go, the Parent & Toddler sessions are great value and something we’ll definitely be doing again before the rink closes on 2nd January.

Next we headed to The Pantiles for their Christmas Market and to see St Paul’s Choir from Rusthall singing Christmas Carols at the Bandstand in aid of Tree of Hope.

The Pantiles is charming at the best of times but there seems to be something really special about it at this time of year. There was a super selection of stalls selling festive treats and gifts and I enjoyed making a few purchases, including some Christmas tree decorations and artisan cheese.

Photo: Pantiles Market by Clare Lush-Mansell

We queued up at the Santa Express stop just outside the side entrance of the Corn Exchange which was one of the things my eldest boy was looking forward to most.

Although the train is free to go on, donations for The Pickering Cancer Centre are very welcome.

There’s a carriage at the back for buggies and the four of us squeezed into a cosy compartment, ready for our festive journey to the top of the town.

Lots of Christmas shoppers waved to us along the way and both boys were delighted with their trip. We disembarked at Assembly Hall Theatre before strolling around  and continuing to soak up the Christmas cheer. There’s such an amazing atmosphere in Royal Tunbridge Wells at Christmas and this is a tradition that we’ll carry on for years I’m sure…

If you are thinking of having a family day out in Tunbridge Wells this Christmas, The Pantiles Christmas Market is back this weekend and on 17th and 18th December, the Santa Express is running on 10th and 11the December and then daily from 17th December to Christmas Eve inclusive. The Ice Rink at Calverley Grounds is open daily (with the exception of Christmas Day) from now until Monday 2nd January. logoWith thanks to Clare Lush-Mansell and her family for sharing the delights of Tunbridge Wells at Christmas! Don't forget to visit the special Farmers Market outside the Town Hall on Thursday 22nd December.


Assembly Hall Theatre
The Assembly Hall Theatre, Royal Tunbridge Wells

The Assembly Hall Theatre is a 1,000 seat theatre offering an eclectic programme with everything from family shows to classical music.



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