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FALLS OF SHIN – VISITOR CENTER

FALLS OF SHIN, ACHANY GLEN, LAIRG,
SUTHERLAND, SCOTLAND – IV27 4EE

Contact us : Telephone +44 (0)1549 402231

Email [email protected]

The Restaurant at the Falls of Shin is open every day from :
10:00 AM – 5:00 PM Wintertime
9:30 AM – 6:00 Summertime

Falls of Shin

Situated in the heart of Sutherland in the Highlands of Scotland, the Falls of Shin is a wonderful experience for all the family.

Set in the Achany Glen, amongst Highland scenery, Falls of Shin is a day out that has something to offer all members of the family.

Open all year round, this all – weather destination is only an hour’s drive from Inverness.

For those who enjoy the outdoors and wildlife there are extensive forest walks, dramatic waterfalls and the famous salmon leap, where you can watch salmon hurl themselves up the falls, attempting to return to their place of birth to spawn. The Falls of Shin is free to visit with plenty of parking space.

The visitor centre shop has a range of exclusive luxury Harrods gifts from Harrods Knightsbridge in London and superb quality local quality crafts, plus fresh local produce.

Complete your day by enjoying home- made food and snacks served daily from noon in the fully licensed restaurant.

The Falls of Shin & Salmon Leap

When the glaciers melted after the last Ice Age in the UK, the Highland landscape was formed, creating valleys and lochs.

Erosion by debris, boulders and gravel led to the formation of the River Shin and the spectacular waterfalls. The River Shin is one of the great salmon rivers in Scotland and is one of the rivers, including that of the Cassley and Carron that run into the River Oykel.

The surrounding area consists of many hills and a large number of streams and burns bring water down to form the river. The water appears slightly brown due to the peaty soil. The water in the River Shin is fresh water and is superbly clean, the perfect conditions for the Atlantic salmon and other fish such as trout that require a constant flow of fresh water.

The Falls of Shin are a natural feature of the River Shin, next to the visitor centre. Visitors each year can watch Atlantic Salmon battle to return to their place of birth to spawn the next salmon generation.

Salmon Life Cycle

The life cycle of the salmo salar, the wild Atlantic salmon is extraordinary with the fish enduring great extremes throughout their lives.

It is in late autumn that the cycle begins with the cock fish (male parent) fertilising the thousands of eggs which the female has laid in a “REDD” or hollow of fine gravel at the top of the river near its source. The parent fish, now called ‘kelts’, cover up the eggs and drift back down- stream and back out to sea.

The eggs, or OVA remain in the gravel for about five months, before hatching out into alevins. Having survived on the yolk sacs of their eggs, the baby fish (now called fry) start their lives by moving into the river, feeding on the tiny organisms that live in the river. With the constant threat of predatory fish and birds as well as flooding, about a quarter of the original hatch will not survive.

The fry that have survived grow to become three or four inch long parr and then continue to live in the river for two to three years, feeding on the tiny organisms that live in the river, before becoming smolts and going out to sea in spring.

Some smolts stay close to the shore, living on the many sprats and sand eel and then return to the river as grilse after about a year, weighing several pounds.

Other smolts will travel further from the river, travelling thousands of miles across the Atlantic to the feeding grounds of south east Greenland and Iceland.

Having spent two or more winters at sea the adult salmon, of which only a small percentage will have survived, start their return journey home to the River Shin to spawn for the first time.

The urge for the salmon to return to the precise place of its birth is instinctive and irresistible.

During this journey they will encounter otters, seals, sea birds, wild mink and predatory birds. Another major threat posed to them is man, as many are caught by the deep sea fishing nets or killed by pollution. If they surpass all these threats they now face their final challenge.

It is during the months of February and September that salmon can be seen hurling themselves up the Falls of Shin in a bid to reach their home.

Before they attempt to jump, the fish listen to the water to judge how much is actually falling over the falls. This is a key factor that affects their ability to survive the jump, if there is enough water in the river and the temperature of the water is right, then is there enough oxygen in the water for the salmon to survive.

The salmon require tremendous power to leap and they develop what scientists call “burst speed”.

This requires using anaerobic muscles rather than aerobic which is used for swimming, which can contract quickly and generate intense bursts of power, lasting only a few seconds and propelling themselves forward at incredible speeds, which can be up to eight metres per second.

If the leap fails, it can take hours if not longer for the salmon to recover to attempt it again and in fact many fish die in the process.

The River Shin is only a small river, about five miles long, but the drop from Loch Shin to the Kyle of Sutherland is 270 feet. These brave fish fight against great adversity to return home to their place of birth.

There has been a dramatic decrease in the number of baby salmon since the Hydro Electric dam at Lairg was built. The dam has unfortunately affected the ability of salmon to spawn on the river.

An Act of Parliament has ensured that sufficient water is now released over the dam and into the river, up to 70 million gallons in mid summer to allow the fish to pass up and down the river freely.

To ensure there are sufficient stocks of fish, each year the Kyle of Sutherland District Fishery Board strips the eggs from the brood hen fish and develops them at the hatchery near Ardgay as part of stock conservation.

They then release 500,000 in late April. However, only about one per cent of the original ova will survive to become young or adult salmon.

Restaurant

Whether you wish to have light refreshment such as a morning coffee or afternoon tea, or enjoy a full three-course meal, the child friendly restaurant is open daily from noon offering delicious seasonal, home made food. The servery counter offers an extensive choice, with vegetarian options and a children’s menu, all served on the exclusive Falls of Shin dinner service.

Take time to relax in the airy conservatory with panoramic views of the forest and children’s play area.

The restaurant can also cater for celebrations for all occasions such as birthdays and weddings. Please contact Falls of Shin for further details.

MENU

Fresh home made food available, with seasonal variations.
Please click here to see the current menu and pricing – the menu opens in a New Window. If you are a PC owner (not Mac) this new window can be closed again (returning here) using he keboard combination ALT+F4. (Hold down the ALT key and tap the F4 key once.

The Harrods Shop

While visiting Falls of Shin, you have the chance to buy exclusive luxury Harrods gifts. Falls of Shin is the only Harrods outlet in Scotland! Choose from a range of luxury food products such as chocolates, biscuits, continental coffees, wines and confectionery as well as famous Harrods Teddy Bears and children’s toys. Harrods branded clothing and kitchenware are also available; tea towels, oven gloves and aprons. There is also a selection of golf accessories, soaps and luxury toiletries, preserves, champagne and other smart gifts.

During the year, seasonal products are also sold, such as luxury Harrods Easter Eggs and Christmas puddings. Falls of Shin in line with Harrods, Knightsbridge also hold seasonal sales where items can be purchased at bargain prices.

Craft Shop

Benefiting from its inspirational Highland location, the Falls of Shin is able to offer exclusive local Scottish crafts of the highest quality. Choose from a selection of pottery, jewellery, specialist fine foods such as smoked salmon, venison, seasonal game, highland cheeses and beverages.

Also available are hand crafted toys and ornaments, a selection of Scottish and Celtic products such as music and books on historical and present Scotland. There is also the opportunity to purchase items from the exclusive Falls of Shin dinner service. The service, made by Highland Stoneware, was specially commissioned for Falls of Shin and depicts the cascading falls. A selection of clothing, including cashmere, Toggi and Johnson’s of Elgin products make this the perfect venue to pick up superb quality gifts suitable for any occasion.

Forest Walks & Wildlife

The forest trails at Falls of Shin run through Achany forest, they open up the native woodland to the public and allow those of all ages and abilities to enjoy the natural scenery and woodland. It is the perfect opportunity to take in the marvellous views and observe animals in their natural habitats.

During your walk you will pass through forests of mainly coniferous trees, which include the famous Scots Pine, Norway Spruce and Japanese Larch, planted in the early 1950s by the Forestry Commission to rebuild the forests that declined during the two World Wars. There are of course native woodland trees of Birch, Rowan, Oak, Alder, Wych Elm (only elm native to Scotland) Willow, Aspen, Ash and Holly.

The Caledonian Forest once covered Scotland, but it was man’s exploitation of the forests after the last Ice Age, that has resulted in only small remnants now in existence.

The New Stone Age brought about sufficient tools to cut down trees and fire was also very effective at clearance.

The Romans cleared much of the Lowlands and this continued in the Middle Ages. The industrial age of the eighteenth century relied heavily on wood for the iron industry, Highland clearances and sheep farming further destroyed the ancient forests and this continued with increasing industrial demands, resulting in the loss of the majority of the Caledonian Forests, except at Falls of Shin.

The short walk takes you to the famous salmon leap and waterfalls, where we are currently working to conserve their precious resource.

During the months of February and September when you can see the salmon hurl themselves up the falls as they make their way upstream to their birth place.

Routes and Maps

There are four circular walks passing through Achany forest, all accessible from Falls of Shin as a starting and ending point.

The first of the walks, 0.8 mile takes you down to the falls (wheel chair and pram access is currently being addressed).

The second, a short walk of 1/4 mile, is an all ability loop with gentle gradients, which leads to a good viewpoint over the River Shin. A bench has been placed to give a wonderful view of the Achany Glen to a place called Altnager Lodge.

The longer walk, 1 mile, runs through the mixed conifer forest.

There is also the Rosehall forest walks and bike trails, which runs through the Rosehall estate. The name Rosehall possibly comes from the Norse ‘hrossal‘ or horsefield.

Another riverside walk is planned for early 2004, as well as a line track to the forest road network that will allow walkers and cyclists to explore further into the forest.

Flora

Scotland’s native tree species (trees natural to this country) can be classified into six main types:

  • Lowland Mixed Broadleaved woods
  • Upland mixed Ashwoods
  • Upland Oakwoods
  • Upland Birchwoods
  • Native Pinewoods
  • Wet Woodlands

Much of the Achany forest is made up of coniferous trees, such as Pine, Spruce and Larch. `Softwood‘ comes from these types of trees. Coniferous trees are cone bearing and often have needle-like leaves. These needles make them particularly well suited to the colder climate in Scotland. These trees at Achany Forest have grown well and are now about 20 metres tall and ready for felling.

Broadleaved trees such as Oak, Beech and Ash produce `hardwoods‘. These shed their leaves in autumn to ensure survival in the winter. The forest is now being managed to increase the presence of these broadleaf trees, to create a more varied and interesting forest.

Most of the timber from Achany Forest is converted into construction timber for making timber framed houses. The smaller trees are either made into fence posts or go to the strand board mill at Dalcross for conversion to Oriented Strand board, which is used for flooring and shuttering.

Scots Pine Pinus sylvestris

The famous Scots Pine is a native of the once Caledonian Pine forests and it is our only native timber producing conifer.

It has the amazing ability to regenerate and thrive in poor soils and as a result is grown extensively throughout northern Europe, Asia, Spain and its native Scotland.
Its blue green needles are found in pairs and it tends to lose lower branches when it matures at 36m, producing a characteristic shape for the species

Its timber, know as ‘red deal’ is strong and was originally used for ship masts, as well as a source of turpentine, resin, tar and charcoal. Today, it is used for building, furniture, boxes, fences and paper pulp.

Norway Spruce
Picea abies
This is best known for being the traditional Christmas tree. It has pointed mid- green needles standing on tiny pegs and long cylindrical brown cones.

It is used for building and paper, but its unique sound transmitting properties make it well suited for certain parts of violins, hence its nick name ‘violin wood’. The violin or `fiddle‘ is an extremely popular traditional Highland instrument featuring extensively in local music.

Ash
Fraxinus excelsior
These trees can reach up to 40m and during winter produce distinctive black buds, which produce dense clusters of small purple flowers.

Believed to have mystical and medicinal properties, this wood is a natural shock absorber, which makes it ideal for such things as tool handles, oars, floors, hockey sticks and rackets.

In Norse mythology a mighty Ash was the tree of life and its wood was burned to drive out evil spirits.

Silver Birch
Betula pendula
Reaching about 15m, this tree has drooping branches and it has a distinctive silvery white upper bark that is paper like and peels.

Also Rowan, Oak, Willow, Aspen, Holly.
Plants (waiting for info )

The peat moorlands, bogs, rivers, forest and mixed woodland have resulted in a great diversity of mosses, fungi, liverworts, ferns as well as wild flowers.

Fungi often form a dense mat around the tips of tree roots, where they extract the nutrients from the soil for the tree to use, with the tree then providing the fungi the food they need to survive, this is know as a symbiotic relationship.

Aspen

Aspen trees are a rare commodity, with only 12 sites in Scotland where there are over 4 hectares of mature trees; Achany Forest is one of those. Within these sites there are a range of species which are very rare. These include Aspen Bracket fungus, Blunt- leaved brittle moss, large poplar longhorn beetle and Dark bordered Beauty Moth.

One of the most important species is Hammerschmidtia ferruginea also known as Aspen Hoverfly. Achany Glen is found to contain them. The forestry commission is looking to manage the site to provide ideal conditions for the hoverfly by creating a steady supply of deadwood whilst also allowing new Aspen growth to take place.

Wildlife

Fish

The River Shin is home notably to Atlantic salmon. These migratory fish are found in the temperate and arctic regions of the Northern Hemisphere. They migrate from the sea into fresh waters to spawn. There is only one species of Atlantic salmon: Salmo salar. They can grow to large sizes, with those recorded in Scottish rivers growing up to 64lbs.

Also found in the River Shin are brown trout and sea trout, eels, lampreys and sticklebacks. While the salmon leaves the sea to come to fresh water, the common eel leaves fresh water to spawn in the Sargasso Sea.

Birds

At certain times of the year at Falls of Shin you can often spot migratory birds such as redstarts, spotted flycatchers, wood and willow warblers. As winter approaches many species move into Achany Glen to benefit from the River Shin habitat, such as Geese, Whooper Swans and Goldeneye ducks from Scandinavia, which have begun breeding in this area and unlike many other ducks can spring instantaneously from the water. On a late winter morning you might hear soft, sweet warbling tones of the Redwing Thrush or the chuckling chack of the Fieldfare.

The resident birds at Falls of Shin include, Chaffinches
Robins Merganser ducks (easily recognisable by its blood red beak and legs)

Heron

While visiting Falls of Shin you could have the unique opportunity to see some birds of prey, such as Buzzards which will soar for hours and resemble a small Golden Eagle. Scotland, unlike much of south east England (due to the increase in insecticides in the 1960) is home to small groups of Sparrowhawks. Falls of Shin is also home to Tawny Owls and Long-Eared Owls, which are exclusively nocturnal and in nesting season, can be located by their soft, tremulous yodelling.

Occasionally in summer you might catch a glimpse of an Osprey as they prey almost exclusively on fish, which hovers over the river before plunging down feet first to seize its catch with its talons. Ospreys were hunted to extinction during the last century, but after one pair returned to Scotland, care has been taken to encourage breeding.

While by the river you might see the Dipper, which can amazingly ‘walk’ underwater on the river bed.

Mammals

As the ancient forests have been cleared away many of the creatures that once lived there have disappeared such as the bear, the lynx, boars and the beaver, although this may be reintroduced in the future.

Falls of Shin and the surrounding area provides excellent habitats for the native animals and during summer you are likely to spot stags high on the hills, with the hinds and calves on the remote glens. While following one of the forest trails you can often spot distinctive Sika deer and the smaller Roe deer, as they often take shelter, seeking seclusion amongst the trees. The Red deer have grown in size and numbers with the disappearance of their natural predator, the wolf.

A large number of animals have remained and flourished, foxes thrive on the large rabbit population, there are also mountain hares, which like the stoats grow white coats in winter. The forest is home to a variety of animals, though they are quite shy and easily disturbed, sightings of pine martens, mice, wildcats, badgers and shrews may not be guaranteed. The rare native Red squirrel is also found, however it seems their numbers are sadly declining.

Directions

Falls of Shin is easy to find. An hour’s drive north of Inverness off the B864 via A836 between Bonar Bridge and Lairg. Plenty of parking available.

Inverness airport flies between London, Aberdeen, Glasgow and Edinburgh, with regular flights.
Bus links from Inverness to Lairg that go past Falls of Shin.
Train service from Inverness to Lairg, 3 times a day.

Weddings and Special Events

Have you got a reason to celebrate but need a venue?

When Sue Docherty and Robert Brighton decided to get married at Falls of Shin, we were only too delighted to help make their day special. The happy couple were married in a civil ceremony on the viewing platform above the Falls in a very picturesque setting. A champagne reception and meal were held in the Falls of Shin restaurant for Sue and Robert and their guests. “Everything from start to finish was just perfect,” says Robert, “the staff couldn’t have been more helpful and the food was wonderful, it made the day just fantastic and so special for us.”

If you are thinking about getting married or have another reason to celebrate, Falls of Shin is the perfect venue. We can organise menus and drinks for you and your guests, we can also help with other arrangements such as finding a registrar or Minister, flowers, the celebration cake and even finding the right gifts. A wedding list service is available instore or choose from our superb range of Harrods gifts and local crafts, as well as gift vouchers.

Parties and special occasions
We can organise children’s parties, parties for birthdays and anniversaries, ceilidhs and celebration dinners. We offer a choice of menus to suit the occasion, food and drink including Harrods Champagne as well as music. We are able to give you exclusive use of the restaurant for evening functions. So whether you have a reason to celebrate or just feel like getting together with family and friends, we will be delighted to help make your event extra special.