The phylogeography of Atlantic brown trout (Salmo trutta) was analysed using mitochondrial DNA control region complete sequences of 774 individuals from 57 locations. Additionally, the available haplotype information from 100 published populations was incorporated in the analysis. Combined information from nested clade analysis, haplotype trees, mismatch distributions, and coalescent simulations was used to characterize population groups in the Atlantic basin. A major clade involved haplotypes assigned to the Atlantic (AT) lineage, but another major clade should be considered as a distinct endemic lineage restricted to the Iberian Peninsula. The phylogeography of the Atlantic populations showed the mixed distribution of several Atlantic clades in glaciated areas of Northern Europe, whereas diverged haplotypes dominated the coastal Iberian rivers. Populations inhabiting the Atlantic rivers of southern France apparently contributed to postglacial colonization of northern basins, but also comprised the source of southern expansions during the Pleistocene. © 2009 The Linnean Society of London, Biological Journal of the Linnean Society, 2009, 97, 904–917.