We want everyone in Scotland to have the opportunity to cycle, walk or wheel to get around. Getting active is great for physical and mental health and puts a smile on people’s faces. We know that there are unique circumstances in rural and remote communities, which require a tailored approach. Rural Connections works with adults of all backgrounds and abilities in Orkney, Highland, Eileanan Siar, Moray and Scottish Borders.
Watch how Sian's life was transformed by getting a trike
Since 2021, our Rural Connections project has supported people to walk, wheel and cycle – for everyday journeys, leisure and adventure. We offer:
- A wide range of cycling and walking activities for all abilities
- Short and long-term cycle loans to help people find a cycle that works for them
- Support for local organisations to coordinate and add walking, wheeling and cycling opportunities to their existing activities
- Upskilling of volunteers to deliver activities in their communities and keep cycles working if there is no local bike shop
- Localised networks of organisations, communities and individuals supporting walking and cycling initiatives
Our development officers are embedded in local communities, using their expertise and local knowledge to work closely with community organisations, local businesses, public sector agencies and individuals.
Rural Connections activities
We offer a variety of health walks through our Rural Connections programme.
A Health Walk:
- is led by a trained volunteer on a risk assessed route
- is less than an hour long
- has a short warm up at the start, followed by a brisk walk and a short cool down at the end
- welcomes new walkers who would benefit from being more active
- is a friendly group walk offered regularly
- is an opportunity to meet new people in your area and explore places you might not have been before
Health Walks are aimed at inactive people who would benefit most from doing more physical activity. This can include people who haven’t been active for a while and would like to start again, people recovering from ill health or who are managing a long-term condition and anyone who’s been told by a health professional that they would benefit from being more active.
To take part in a local health walk, simply get in touch with your local development officer (contact details below) to find out our programme of walks and how to book a place.
We host regular led rides, which are sociable local rides coordinated and risk assessed by our staff and volunteers. Participants can attend led rides by booking in advance.
Information on led rides will be posted on the Facebook pages of each local project (links in contact section below). Before attending a led ride, our qualified staff and volunteers will carry out a short assessment of your riding skills to make sure you will be comfortable and safe on the planned ride. We will also talk you through how to carry out a quick check of your own bike to make sure it’s safe and roadworthy before heading out on the ride.
Learn to ride
If you are unable to ride a bike but are keen to learn then our qualified team of staff and volunteers will provide you with the know-how to get pedalling. We have a fleet of bikes that can be used during the learn to ride session where simple techniques for balance, braking and pedalling will help to build your confidence. Beyond our learn to ride sessions you are then welcome to take part in our other cycling activities, to further enhance your confidence and expertise. Simply get in touch with your local development officer (contact details below) to arrange your first session.
Our family cycling sessions offer simple tips and techniques for safer on-road cycling for you and your family. Delivered by our qualified team of staff and volunteers, these practical sessions last for approximately two hours, where communication and observation skills are developed along with road position and how to move your family through junctions safely. We have a range of bikes available for adults and children with the session delivered at a location near your home. We’ll also show you how to check your bikes to make sure they are safe and roadworthy. If you and your family can all cycle comfortably unassisted and at least one adult can take part in the session, then get in touch with your local development officer (contact details below) to arrange your session.
Communication, road position and observations are just a few of the tips and techniques our qualified team of staff and volunteers will develop during your 1-2-1 better biking sessions. Delivered at a pace that suits you, the better biking sessions will improve your confidence, experience and knowledge when cycling on road, ideal for using your bike for those short journeys or commuting to work rather than the car. Each session lasts for around one hour (which includes a check of your bike to make sure it’s safe and roadworthy) with three sessions recommended. Furthermore, our range of bikes, including our e-bikes, are available for the better biking sessions. Simply get in touch with your local development officer (contact details below) to arrange your first session.
If you are keen to use your bike for shorter journeys or to commute to work, and are looking to build your confidence when cycling, then our 1-2-1 buddy rides are the perfect way to develop your on-road cycling skills. Our qualified team of staff and volunteers will ride with you, on roads that suit your experience, to enhance your riding skills, and offer on the spot advice for safer cycling. Each session lasts for around one hour and includes a check of your bike to make sure it’s safe and roadworthy. Furthermore, our range of bikes, including our e-bikes, are available for the 1-2-1 buddy rides. Simply get in touch with your local development officer (contact details below) to arrange your first session.
E-bike try-outs and loans
We have a full range of e-bikes which you can try out for free. You can test out our step through, hybrid, mountain, or cargo e-bikes free of charge. Our e-bike try-outs last for approximately 30 minutes where our qualified staff and volunteers will show you how the e-bike works as well as assist you with a run through of the differences between and a standard bike and make sure you feel confident when riding an e-bike. We also offer e-bike loans, from a short half hour local ride up to a few weeks. Simply get in touch with your local development officer (contact details below) to see what e-bikes they have and to arrange a try-out.
Non-standard cycle loans
We can offer you the chance to try out a range of our non-standard cycles for free. We have a range of cycles from e-trikes to tandems and have trained staff who can support you to get pedalling safely. Simply get in touch with your local development officer (contact details below) to see what cycles they have and to arrange a visit.
You can help and support us to achieve our aims by volunteering with Rural Connections. All of our volunteering roles are advertised online.
Roles available include;
- Health Walk leader – lead a health walk.
- Cycle ride leader – lead a group ride.
- Learn to ride volunteer - Help children or adults to learn to ride or increase cycle skills in group sessions.
- Buddy ride volunteer – support people to cycle for those everyday journeys by showing them their route, practice safety and positioning and offer general route and riding advice.
- Tandem pilot - Ride as the front rider on a tandem bike for blind or partially sighted people and provide support and guidance on and off the bike during a ride.
- Bike maintenance volunteer - Help to keep our bikes in tip top shape.