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Where to spot Atlantic salmon in Scotland


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Scotland has a number of accessible locations for watching Atlantic salmon leap on their way to spawning areas.

THE nights may be longer than the days, and the rich greenery of summer fading to brown, but late autumn is the perfect time to see one of the most iconic scenes in Scottish wildlife.

October through to November is the prime time to see the Atlantic salmon leap back upstream towards their birthplaces, where they will breed and start the cycle all over again.

As the natural heritage advisor for the National Trust for Scotland (NTS), Rob Dewar, explains: “[The salmon are] a thrill to watch.

“They have gone through this extraordinary life cycle. They have been in the ocean for years and this homing instinct guides them back, through the rivers, to their breeding grounds.

“You see them at the waterfalls, throwing themselves up, hitting the rocks and falling, disappearing into the white surf. Then you see them emerge and try again and again until they make it.

“It is one of those iconic scenes in Scottish wildlife and, if you pick the right place and the right time, it is incredible to watch.”

As we know, the right time is now (late autumn), but where is the right place to watch salmon leap in Scotland?

Here’s a list we’ve put together of the best places to catch the salmon leap as they return to their Scots birthplaces.

1: Linn of Tummel:

The junction of the rivers Garry and Tummel, which has a car park nearby and easy access, is a great place to watch the salmon leap in Scotland.

Just outside Pitlochry and the Tay Forest Park, the Linn of Tummel has a fish ladder, built in 1910 to aid the salmon on their way.

A walk through the NTS-run site also offers the chance to glimpse red squirrels, otters, kingfishers or even a pine marten.

2: Falls of Shin:

Over an hour’s drive north of Inverness, these waterfalls may be a long journey for most Scots, but they also offer what many consider to be the best chance to see leaping salmon in Scotland.

There are several marked routes through the forest, and the main falls are wheelchair accessible as well.

The falls also have a visitor centre and platform with fine views both up and down the River Shin.

3: Buchanty Spout:

Buchanty Spout, in Perthshire, offers residents of Scotland’s biggest cities the chance to see salmon leaping without traveling to the far Highlands.

The Spout is very popular with photographers as it is a very narrow waterfall on the River Almond. Because it is so narrow, it makes it a lot easier to guess where the fish will jump – even if it is still a task to guess when!

4: Crathes Castle:

Crathes Castle in Aberdeenshire is another NTS property. Where a tributary river flows into the River Dee they have installed a fish ladder, making it the perfect spot to look out for leaping salmon.

A range of waymarked and clearly signposted trails leave from the castle, with visitors urged to look out for wildlife such as red squirrels, woodpeckers and herons along their way.

5: The River Dee:

The River Dee flows through the Cairngorms and offers multiple great opportunities to see the salmon leap. Two of the best are at Mar Lodge and Glen Tanar Estate.

West of Braemar, Mar Lodge is run by the NTS, and they have been making efforts to improve their section of the river for salmon.

In the opposite direction along the Dee, Glen Tanar Estate offers guided walks. The ranger-guides are a brilliant resource for finding out the best spots for salmon viewing, which change year on year depending on weather and water conditions.

6: Philiphaugh Salmon Viewing Centre:

Philiphaugh Salmon Viewing Centre, as the name suggests, is a great place to view salmon. Just over an hour south of Edinburgh in the Scottish Borders, Philiphaugh sits on Ettrick Water.

The centre also offers the chance to see a fully restored 19th century waterwheel and other wildlife, such as otters and owls.

7: Pitlochry Dam and salmon ladder

While not as naturally scenic as some of the other locations, Pitlochry Dam’s ladder has been crossed by over 250,000 salmon since it was built in 1952.

The dam also has a free-to-enter exhibit on the engineering feats that first brought hydro electricity to the Highlands.

8: The Falls of Braan

Outside Dunkeld and nestled in the NTS-owned The Hermitage, the Falls of Braan see salmon leaping up the falls in autumn as they head to spawning grounds further along the river.

Originally designed as a pleasure ground in the 18th century for the Dukes of Atholl, this site uniquely offers attractive waterfalls and a hall of mirrors overlooking them.