AS QUINTESSENTIALLY Scottish as the roaring red deer stag, soaring golden eagle or red grouse hidden among the heather, the majestic Atlantic salmon undertakes one of the most complex migrations in the animal world.
After spending up to five years in feeding grounds off the coast of Greenland, the salmon returns to the river of its birth, negotiating a variety of rapids, weirs and waterfalls in order to spawn. There are numerous locations throughout Scotland where this feat of endurance can be witnessed first hand.
1 FALLS OF BRAAN
Perthshire 0844 4932192 www.nts.org.uk
The Falls of Braan and the associated romantic folly of Ossian's Hall were an integral part of Perthshire's romantic tours during the 18th century. Today, the Braan Walk follows a waymarked riverside and woodland path for six kilometres and is certainly one of the most picturesque locations to watch salmon leaping.
2 FALLS OF SHIN
Sutherland, 01549 402231 www.fallsofshin.co.uk
The River Shin flows into one of the great salmon rivers of the Highlands, the River Oykel. Situated midway between Bonar Bridge and Lairg in Achany Glen is the Falls of Shin Visitor Centre. From the visitor centre, a series of woodland walks loop to viewing points over the spectacular waterfalls. The visitor centre has a gift shop and restaurant, and is the only Harrods outlet in Scotland.
3 PHILIPHAUGH SALMON VIEWING CENTRE
near Selkirk, Scottish Borders 01896 849 723 www.salmonviewingcentre.com
The Salmon Viewing Centre on the Philiphaugh Estate, near Selkirk, is a remarkable visitor attraction. Members of the public can witness the epic migration of the salmon in their natural habitat - both above and below the water's surface - thanks to live video links from underwater cameras sited in the Ettrick Water.
4 PITLOCHRY DAM AND SALMON LADDER
Perthshire, 01796 473152 www.scottish-southern.co.uk
Pitlochry is synonymous with the salmon's incredible journey due to the famous hydro-electric dam and salmon ladder that receives an estimated half a million visitors each year. The salmon ladder is more than 300 metres in length and consists of 34 chambers, which allow more than 5,000 fish to progress upstream to Loch Faskally and beyond.
5 GLEN TANAR ESTATE
Deeside, 01339 886072 www.glentanar.co.uk
The Braeloine Visitor Centre on the Glen Tanar Estate is fully equipped with visitor facilities, car parking and a full-time ranger service. The rangers can provide specific advice on the best spots to watch salmon on one of Scotland's most famous rivers. Timing is crucial - the fish tend to be more active in the early morning and evening, especially after a spell of heavy rain (when the river levels tend to rise).
• Stuart Glen is a nature photographer and writer, covering natural history and conservation for a variety of publications.