Cowden Japanese Garden and Castle Campbell

Japanese Garden at Cowden

At the end of September, John had an unexpected day off work. Unfortunately, the weather wasn’t great but we believed the forecast which said it would be better further east. It lied! We arrived at the Japanese Garden at Cowden in Clackmannanshire in pouring rain so, as it was around midday, we decided to have lunch first in the hope that the weather would clear. The small café is housed in a temporary Portakabin, but once inside you wouldn’t know because it is well maintained and attractive – better still, the food is good and the staff are friendly.

Cowden is somewhere I’ve wanted to visit for a while. Created in 1908 by intrepid traveller Ella Christie (1861-1949), with the help of Taki Handa originally from the Royal School of Garden Design at Nagoya, it fell into disrepair in later years and was badly vandalised in the 1960s. In 2013 Professor Masao Fukuhara from Osaka University of Arts, Japan, was appointed to restore the garden and, although still a work in progress, it is now open to the public again. The full history, detailed on the garden’s website, is fascinating and well worth a read.

Our strategy of waiting for the rain to go off over lunch hadn’t worked, but it didn’t detract from the beauty of the garden and gives us an excuse to come back to visit in sunshine some day. Click on the gallery below to take a stroll round the central pond with us.

After Cowden, we headed a few miles back up the road to the small town of Dollar to visit Castle Campbell. We left the car in town and headed up the burn to Dollar Glen, where we chose the west path which climbs through woodland, eventually following the Burn of Sorrow, and leading to great views of the castle.

It’s a long time since we’ve actually visited the castle, but we decided to do so now. It was no longer raining, but the mist made the views from the top of the tower very atmospheric and, as the last image in the gallery below shows, there were some weak rays of sunshine as we left.

In the internal photos, you can see two Green Man carvings in the ceiling which would originally have held chains for oil lamps in their mouths. You can also see John testing one of the latrines for comfort, as invited by the notice behind him. This notice also informed us that a remedy for bed wetting from 1544 involved adding the ground bones of a hedgehog to the sufferer’s food and drink. Poor hedgehogs!

After the castle, we took the east path back down the glen along the Burn of Care until it merged with the Burn of Sorrow to form the Dollar Burn and led us back into town.  Such sad names!

Before leaving we found this interesting drinking fountain and a bench dedicated to Ella Christie whose garden we had visited earlier.

This was a day which proves there’s no point in sitting at home waiting for the weather to improve. Just get out and do it! We had two lovely walks which I’m linking to Jo and her wonderful group of Monday walkers. She has blue Portuguese skies to counter my grey ones.

Jo’s Monday Walks.


  1. I love Japanese gardens and this one looks wonderful – I’d love to see some sunny day photos so I hope you manage to go back there sometime. Your ‘poor hedgehogs’ comment made me smile – presumably they were dead before their bones were ground up. I wonder how good they were at curing the bed wetting 🙂

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  2. John’s doing my usual pretending to sit on a toilet pose, though his pretend pooping face needs some work! Poor hedgehogs indeed! I don’t know why pretty much every historical remedy involved killing something, typically in the most horrible way possible.

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  3. That garden was beautiful, even in the rain! Sometimes cloudy or rainy days are actually a fun atmosphere…we once took some family photos on a gloomy day that came out quite nice. But I agree, you should go back when it’s sunny and dry so you can truly enjoy walking the grounds.

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  4. Hi Anabel – looks quite a long way, but I guess with good roads it wasn’t so far. Also I love going to places and then going back … get to see so much more and the bits I missed. The Japanese garden looks fascinating and I imagine would be so pretty with some sunshine – but Castle Campbell, your burns, the valleys etc all look just lovely – will also tempt you to a 2nd visit … cheers Hilary


  5. You summed it up perfectly. So often I’ve gone out in spite of the weather only to be treated to a wonderful day. As your photos prove, the world can also be very beautiful in the rain!!

    I’m guessing from your commentary that a ‘burn’ is a stream?

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