Atlantic salmon, more than any other fish, occupy a prominent position in the cultural mythology of Scotland. The Picts knew this when they carved its image on stones; the Celts when they told tales of the Salmon of Wisdom. For this is a creature that links rivers and sea in its journeys, whose presence indicates the health of a river and can inspire awe in many who see it.
At a cascade where salmon gather, their jumping against the flow can seem little short of miraculous. Happily, Scotland is blessed with both many waterfalls and many salmon rivers. It is also unusual in having salmon that enter its inland waters most months of the year. This includes a sizeable ‘autumn run’ of fish, which often peaks in October.
To appreciate salmon in full autumn leap (and see video links from underwater cameras) try a visit to the Philiphaugh Salmon Viewing Centre by the River Ettrick, near Selkirk. Or in the north, ogle the falls along the River Shin, between Bonar Bridge and Lairg.
You are most likely to spot leaping salmon in October and November in early morning and evening, especially following a spell of rain after a dry period.
By dint of the fact that these are falls and there is lots of spray around, they can be slippery at the best of times. Add to the fact that they are best seen in late autumn/early winter these areas may be more slippery than usual so take care at all times if you go to visit.
7 great places to watch salmon jumping
1. The Falls of Braan in Perthshire https://www.nts.org.uk/Visit/The-Hermitage
2. Linn of Tummel where the rivers Garry and Tummel meet https://www.nts.org.uk/Visit/Linn-Of-Tummel
3. The Falls of Shin – http://scotland.forestry.gov.uk/visit/falls-of-shin
4. Buchanty Spout, Easter Glenalmond near Crieff (To get to Buchanty Spout, take the road to Dunkeld from Crieff, then turn down the Glen Almond turnoff just before the Sma Glen. Buchanty is just a mile or two down this small road. There is an area to park the car on the junction, then a signposted path from the bridge takes you the 100m down to the spout.)
5. Philiphaugh Salmon Viewing Centre – you can see salmon on the Ettrick Water (a tributary of the Tweed where Philiphaugh is located). The safest place to look at fish gathering is below the falls – there is an underwater camera in the Centre which shows these fish gathering below the obstruction before they attempt to go through the fish pass. www.salmonviewingcentre.com
6. Pitlochry Dam and salmon ladder. There is a viewing room here that allows visitors to see salmon migrating through the fish pass on their way upstream.
7. The River Dee. If you go at an appropriate time, and the river levels are suitable, visitors can also see salmon leaping on the in various spots in at Glen Tanar Estate. Go to the Braeloine Visitor Centre www.glentanar.co.uk
Find out more about the life cycle and habits of the Atlantic salmon on our website.