Sustrans Scotland’s Places for Everyone fund has helped create an accessible path network in the Highland village of Kinloch Rannoch enabling everyone, regardless of age or ability, to spend time outside.
The Scottish Highlands are a popular destination for many.
However, access in the more remote areas can prove challenging, both for the people who live there and those visiting.
In June 2022, Kinloch Rannoch residents celebrated the completion of the Rannoch Riverside All Abilities Path.
The community-led path upgrades were designed to enable everyone, including those with mobility limitations, to enjoy the health and wellbeing benefits that come from spending time outdoors.
The project was a collaboration between Perth and Kinross Countryside Trust (PKCT), Cycling Scotland’s Transport Planning & Engineering (TP&E), the Rannoch Paths and Open Spaces Group (RPOSG) and Sustrans’ Places for Everyone programme.
Why is good, accessible infrastructure in rural communities so important?
Infrastructure investment in rural communities represents value and care of the people who live there.
Bid Strachan, PKCT Communities Officer, explains:
“Some rural and remote communities are disadvantaged by their location.
“The Scottish Index of Multiple Deprivation (SIMD) identifies geographic access to services as the predominant issue for the Rannoch area.
“Enhancing the quality and accessibility of local path networks connects people to one another, as well as to vital services such as shops, schools and health centres.
“Having easily accessible things to do also improves the visitor experience.
This is hugely important in areas such as Rannoch where the economy is dependent on tourism.”
Before the All Abilities Path was built access to the riverside path was limiting to many users, especially those with mobility issues. Credit: Ian Biggs & PKCT, 2022.
What is the Rannoch Riverside All Abilities Path?
Annie Benson, RPOSG Chair, told us that before the new path was created, travelling around Kinloch Rannoch was challenging:
“Access to the riverside path was limiting to many users due to steep inclines, steps and a surface that made it impassable for people with mobility issues.
“The Rannoch Riverside All Abilities Path has made a safe, accessible route to the centre of the village, as well as connecting the local primary school, health centre, The Loch Rannoch Highland Club and Loch Rannoch Hotel.”
The route now offers a double-width sealed surface, with three access points across the village.
The steep, slippery steps have been removed in favour of gentle zig-zagging gradients.
New destinations have also been installed, including a wide, level picnic area where people can enjoy the views over the River Tummel to the mountains beyond.
Community involvement in the project
Community input into the project started over 10 years ago through events, discussions and consultations.
Ideas were also gathered at the monthly soup club in the village hall, via surveys left at the village café and shop, and at accommodation providers.
The feedback from the community showed a desire for sustainable facilities that both locals and visitors could use for recreation.
This shaped the final design of the path network.
The Rannoch Riverside All Abilities Path has made a safe, accessible route to the centre of the village. Credit Ian Biggs & PKCT, 2022.
What difference has it made to those with mobility limitations in Kinloch Rannoch?
Since the path's opening, the town has seen an increase in people with mobility issues using the path.
It has become a favourite route for Stride for Life, an organisation which hosts weekly walks for people of all abilities around Kinloch Rannoch.
Bob Benson, a local resident who uses an off-road mobility vehicle, describes the new path as transformative:
“I didn’t want to travel through the village before because it wasn’t very safe.
“It was pretty dangerous for people along those roads with poor or non-existent pavements - especially with heavy traffic through the village.
“It’s now possible for everybody to go along the new path.
“The path has opened up the area along the river which I previously wouldn’t have visited as the path was narrow, stony and rough with tree roots.
“I would have to be quite careful and could only travel in single file at the front or back of a group which wasn’t very social.
“Having a wider path means anyone, able-bodied, disabled, families with small children, can all use the path walking or wheeling alongside each other in a sociable manner.
It’s been quite transformative for me, and for other disabled people in the village, who previously would not have felt safe going out independently.”
Steep, slippery steps have been removed in favour of gentle zig-zagging gradients. Credit: Ian Biggs & PKCT, 2022.
Looking to the future
As a result of the Rannoch All Abilities Path project, local people are feeling optimistic about the future of the village.
New initiatives are emerging, including the purchase of an ex-outdoor centre which is going to be converted into a community hub.
Bob Benson explains:
“The path project has brought people together and they are now looking to the future and generating new ideas.
“Previously there was a sense that areas such as this had been forgotten and that people didn’t care much about them.
However, the new path is a tangible sign that this has changed.”