Try Skating and get Scotland rolling

   Rolling down under

    Lucy Harland skates Oz

'You'll get seawater in your bearings' says a man cycling past in the opposite direction. It's December 30th, it's sunny, I'm wearing shorts and skating by the beach in Melbourne. I decided to worry about the state of my bearings when I got back home.

I spent December on holiday in Australia this year. No flu epidemic, gastric bugs or over-eating (apart from ice-cream). Naturally I took my skates in my suitcase.

    Lucy Harland skates Oz

I'd Googled skating and Melbourne before I left and had made contact with the Bayside Bladers skate shop,arranging to go out with them on their evening skate during my first week. However Melbourne isn't as predictable weather-wise as much of the rest of Australia and it felt a bit ironic that the skate had to be called off because it was raining. I was out of the city for the next two Tuesday nights but I called up an Aussie friend with skates in her cupboard (Don thinks, aren't they always) who agreed to come out for three great beachside skates on the same path that the Bayside Bladers use.

Melbourne is on Port Philip Bay and the bayside trail goes for miles round the waters' edge. There are two paths - one for skaters and bikes, and one for pedestrians - which means you're less likely to get knocked down by a pedestrian wandering in front of you. The path winds its way round the bay, sometimes hard by the sea, at others heading inland a few metres. We started at St Kilda, the main beach resort in Melbourne. Because the city's on a bay and you're not right on the ocean, the beaches are quite small but St Kilda has plenty of sand, sea and sun, and lots of places to eat ice-cream and drink beer after a good skate. It's a 25 minute tram ride out of the city centre so pretty easy to get to.

We decided to head south to New Brighton - mostly because it meant heading into the wind for the first part of the skate and getting a bit of assistance on our way back. Its was a great 14km skate, watching the kite surfers out in the water, going round the marinas, and past cafes and restaurants. A couple of times the wind was quite strong and the waves were crashing over the harbour wall and onto the path but given that it was about 27°c, it was actually quite refreshing. There were plenty of other people on the path - mostly cyclists but a few skaters were out and some freestylers were enjoying the smooth path down by the St Kilda bathing pavilion. The atmosphere was friendly and the views were great.

Melbourne is very bike friendly with cycle paths and big parks all over the city. I'm sure there are lots of other great places to skate but if you're in the city and have some spare time, I suspect there aren't many places quite as scenic as the bayside path. And the gelato shops in St Kilda are excellent. (Don wonders, was the ice-cream better than the skating?)

    Lucy Harland skates Oz

A couple of years ago, we were back in Sydney visiting friends and I went out on the Friday night beginners' skate. It was one of the best things I did all holiday. We met at the ferry terminal just behind the Opera House and skated under the Harbour Bridge and through the Darling Harbour restaurant area, zoomed across the car park. wobbled across the cobbles in city's university area, through the underpass and up the stairs at Central Station and then headed straight through the central business district down to the harbour again. I drew the line at skating through the down town traffic and took the pavement instead. They were kind enough to send out a small search party to find me (I was waiting at the pedestrian crossing about 4 blocks up the street). It was a beautiful late summer (April) night and after the skate, we sat by the water eating ice cream, warm enough to be in t-shirts at 11 o'clock at night. It was a really friendly skate - small and accommodating. A lot of them looked like they were born on skates and I was a confident beginner but not much more than that. They made regular stops to make sure that the group stayed together and were an eclectic bunch of people from a surfshop owner and his 3 kids (youngest aged 6), a Brazilian guy who left us to go betting when we skated past the casino and several students. I was grateful for the 6 year old being there...

    Lucy Harland skates Oz