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Strap on those skates for a little holiday merrymaking -- at a place of torture and execution?

Strap on those skates for a little holiday merrymaking -- at a place of torture and execution?
The frozen-over moat at the Tower of London is open to skaters through Jan. 4. (Tower of London)

Nothing says merrymaking like holiday activities near a place of imprisonment, torture and execution.

Standing guard over the city for more than 900 years, the Tower of London on the north bank of the Thames has also become a place for skaters.

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Part of its moat has been frozen and converted into an ice rink, and Londoners and tourists alike have wrapped up in scarves and mittens to take to the ice.

If you get chilled, the Ice Bar and café  is on hand for snacks and warming drinks, including mulled wine or hot chocolate. You can skate to your heart's content through Jan. 4.

You may even find a beefeater gliding around the rink at the Tower of London.
You may even find a beefeater gliding around the rink at the Tower of London. (Francis Hawkins - Rex / Shutterstock)

It opens at 10 a.m., with peak hours from 5:15 p.m. until closing. In the evening, colored lights illuminate the skaters as the tower looms overhead.

The tower, whose origins date to Christmas 1066, isn't all gloom and doom. It also was a royal residence until the 1600s, served as a records archive and a menagerie.

Among those who met their maker there were Sir Thomas More in 1535 and Anne Boleyn, second wife of Henry VIII who killed a year after Sir Thomas. During World War I, several suspected spies were killed by firing squad.

Famous prisoners included Elizabeth I (at the behest of half-sister Mary Tudor, known as Bloody Mary) and Sir Walter Raleigh, the English explorer who was accused of treason by James, Elizabeth’s successor. (He was ultimately beheaded, but at the Palace of Westminster.)

Prices for skating vary according to time/location. You can find more details at the Tower of London Ice Rink.

If the setting is too disquieting, there's a rink at another royal home, Hampton Court Palace, about 15 miles west of London. It dates to the 1500s and  hosted a variety of guests, including Henry VIII, Elizabeth I and Oliver Cromwell.

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