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Celebrating Autumn At Japanese Garden, Cowden

Updated: Mar 14, 2023

Japanese Garden Cowden located in Dollar, Scotland is less than an hour's drive from Edinburgh. Established in 1861 by the intrepid Scottish traveller Ella Christie after returning from her travels in Kashmir, Tibet and Japan. Ella commissioned designer Taki Handa to create the seven-acre - Shah-rak-uen meaning 'Place of Pleasure and Delight'. Here's more about the beautiful Japanese Garden Cowden.

Autumn at Japanese Garden, Cowden
Autumn At Japanese Garden, Cowden ©MDHarding

Celebrating Autumn At Japanese Garden, Cowden

About Ella Christie

Isabella (Ella) Christie was born on 21st April 1861 in Cockpen near Bonnyrigg. Said to be a formidable character, the first western women to travel from Samarkand to Khiva and meet the Dalai Lama.

After inheriting Cowden Castle estate, Ella decided to go travelling. Visiting destinations including India, Malaya, Borneo and Uzbekistan. On her adventure collecting seeds including those of Rhododendrons.

Ella Christie
Ella Christie ©CC

Cowden Castle

The 14th Century Castle and estate once owned by the Bishops of St. Andrews then called Castleton, was bought by the Christies in 1865. John Christie, Ella Chrisite's father was a keen arborist. The area was the perfect location with the ideal soil and climate for growing trees. Today home to a woodland including birch, oak, three giant sequoias and a Lime Tree Avenue, while the Japanese garden has interest all year round with imported plants including Japanese Maple, Azalea, Rhododendrons and much more!

Sadly Cowden Castle was demolished in 1949 and the garden vandalised in the 1960s. It was a triumph that in 2017 the garden reopened its doors after 60 years!

The Mighty Oak Changing Colour
The Mighty Oak Changing Colour ©MDHarding

Bridges, Lantern's and Gravel

The garden itself is said to be one of the most important and largest Japanese gardens outside of Japan, it is also an authentic bridge between two great countries that of Scotland and Japan.

Will you cross one or more of the incredible ornamental bridges? Don't miss the zig-zag (yatsuhashi) bridge to the island of eternal youth!

The antique Japanese granite lanterns (tōrō) can be found dotted around the garden. The tall Kasuga lanterns in the shape of a Shinto god date back to 1823. While my favourite is the Legged Class - Snow Scene Lantern just past The Island Azuma Rest House almost floating on the lake. Did you know that In the Japanese belief system, all humans originally came from water, so the lanterns visually represent the spirits' return to the elements?

Stones, rocks 'Ishi' are an important element of a Japanese garden signifying mountains and hills, but could also symbolise Buddha, or strength. Some to look out for are the Seat of Honour stone, Face Washing Stone, the Widower's Stone, the Master's Stone and the Moonshadow Stone.

The Dry Garden is in the style of Karesansui/Zen Garden with silver-grey gravel. Did you know this represents water in dry gardens? Said to evoke feelings of tranquillity, calmness and peace. The garden is beautiful, I could have stayed so much longer.

Kasuga Japanese Lantern, Japanese Garden, Cowden
Kasuga Japanese Lantern, Japanese Garden, Cowden ©MDHarding

I hope you enjoy visiting as much as we did. It is amazing!


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