Rural Connections

Specifically designed for Scotland’s rural and remote areas, Rural Connections supports people to cycle, walk and wheel – for everyday journeys, leisure and adventure

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 people of all backgrounds, ages and abilities in Shetland, Orkney, Highland, Eileanan Siar, Moray, Argyll and Bute and Scottish Borders.

A new project for 2021, Rural Connections supports people to cycle, walk and wheel – 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 Connection Activities

Health Walks

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.

Led Rides

Through Rural Connections, we host regular led rides in each of the locations they are based. A led ride is a sociable local ride, 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 or 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.

Family Cycling

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, the practical Family Cycling 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.

Better Biking

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.

Buddy Rides

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

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. 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.

E-bike 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. Loans can be for a short half hour local ride to up to a few weeks. Our qualified staff and volunteers will show you how the e-bike works, assist you with a run through of the differences between the bike you are loaning and a standard bike and will make sure you feel confident to take the bike away. Simply get in touch with your local development officer (contact details below) to see what e-bikes they have and to arrange a visit.

Adapted bike loans

The Rural Connections project can offer you the chance to try out a range of our adapted, 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 wheeling safely. Simply get in touch with your local development officer (contact details below) to see what cycles they have and to arrange a visit.

Volunteering opportunities

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 cycle for those everyday journeys by showing them their route, practice safety and positioning and offer general route and riding advice.
  • Tandem Cycle Pilot - Ride as a front rider on a tandem bike for blind or partially sighted people and provide support and guidance on and of the bike during a ride.
  • Bike Maintenance volunteer - Fixe bikes, work within their qualifications/experience.

Contact us

Want to find out more about Rural Connections? Get in touch with your local development officer:

Local authority Development officer Bothy
Shetland Anna Gudaniec Shetland
Orkney Magdalena Choluj Orkney
Highland (Caithness) George Ewing Highland (Caithness)
Moray Louise Haggarty Moray
Eilean Siar Daryll Brown Eilean Siar
Argyll and Bute Aisa Nebreda Argyll and Bute
Scottish Borders Emily A. Farquhar Scottish Borders