Ice skating has never been my forte – I shuffle rather than glide.
And since I mangled my right ankle in a scooter accident in 2022, my confidence on the ice has hit rock bottom.
However, when I spot the new “Glice” rink on the banks of Loch Insh, with its stunning backdrop of mountains and woodland, I’m tempted to get my skates on.
I watch for a while as rosy-cheeked children, swaddled in hats, coats and gloves, zip effortlessly up and down the slippery arena.
Most are giggling – all are having enormous amounts of fun. None of them seem to be at all worried about falling.
I decide to give it a bash and book myself an hour’s slot.
Once I’ve been sized up for skates by instructor Dale Zofcin, I step shakily on to the Glice, a synthetic ice made from special plastic.
Take penguin steps first
I’d read somewhere that it was a good idea to attempt to take small “penguin steps”, and I try this while clinging tightly to the walls.
After I’ve been round the rink a few times – very slowly – Dale skates over (he’s unbelievably graceful) and encourages me to try to glide.
Alas, I’m way too stiff and rigid – you really need to be relaxed to master the art of skating – and fear of breaking my dodgy ankle, or cracking my backside, prevents me from doing anything too adventurous.
First-time skaters – or folk who are fairly useless at it, like me – can use special skate aids if they fancy.
The ones here are shaped like snails, and while adults and older kids can push and steer the things along, wee ones can hop on their backs and take a ride.
There’s also the option of playing ice hockey and, truth be told, it’s nice to have a sturdy stick to hold on to for dear life.
Dale, a talented player, is keen to show me the ropes, and I work up a decent sweat in my bid to try to pass him a puck.
I’m fairly rubbish, but he claims he can see signs of improvement.
Other games are available, too, and I watch as a group of children play Eisstock, a form of German curling.
Essentially, players slide “stocks” over an icy surface, aiming for a target, or to cover the longest distance.
Innovative surface – but no ice!
Ice skating, hockey and games are possible on the rink at Loch Insh all winter, whatever the weather, thanks to the innovative Glice surface.
So what is Glice?
It’s made from polymer panels that simulate the look, feel and slip of ice.
And apparently Glice has more “give” than real ice, so it’s less punishing if you fall hard.
It takes a bit of getting used to – it doesn’t “bite” as much when you dig into the ice, so you might find it quite slippery at first.
You might find yourself doing a waddling motion until you realise you can make longer strides.
Glice is arguably more ecologically conscious and much more convenient than traditional ice rinks, which require huge amounts of water and electricity, plus noisy machines to power them – including refrigeration systems and compressors.
“It could run year-round, but at the moment we’re just running the Glice rink until April,” Dale tells me.
Despite the lack of ice, it’s a veritable winter wonderland, especially at night when the rink it lit up with colourful fairy lights.
Whether you’re keen to have a shot or not, there’s plenty to do at Loch Insh Outdoor Centre.
Book a ski or snowboard session on the dry slope, have a shot at archery or fishing, or choose from a wide range of watersports, including kayaking, canoeing, sailing, rowing, windsurfing and paddleboarding.
If you get hungry, you can head into the Boathouse Restaurant for a steaming hot bowl of soup or coffee and cake.
A one-hour session is £10 including skate hire. Skate sizes are available for the whole family from a toddler size eight to an adult size 12. Bring gloves, wear thick socks that cover your ankles, and dress for the weather.
Can’t book online? Pop along as staff will always try to fit you in if you can wait until there’s a space.
- Gayle stayed overnight at the Aviemore Youth Hostel. A short walk from Aviemore town centre, the hostel offers a range of private rooms and shared dorms. Facilities include a bright, spacious lounge area with woodland and mountain views, TV and pool table, self-catering kitchen, drying room, laundry, private lockers, secure bike storage and ample on-site parking. The hostel also hosts a Scottish Natural Heritage visitor centre, with a peregrine nestcam and information about Craigellachie National Nature Reserve. See more at: hostellingscotland.org.uk/hostels/aviemore/