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.

Dollar Glen

Dollar
Dollar

One of our favourite outings is to the small town of Dollar in Clackmannanshire, from where we walk up Dollar Glen to Castle Campbell. We did this most recently in December 2016. Unfortunately, since the last time we visited, the hotel bar in which we usually ate lunch has closed – the horror! – but we found a more than adequate substitute in the Bridge Street Kitchen – hooray!

Suitably fortified, we made our way past some chain saw carving and up West Burnside.

Just where the footpath to the castle begins there is a small museum in an old mill building. In all our years of visiting Dollar we have never been in – until this time. It’s a fascinating collection of information on local history staffed by friendly volunteers (an extensive chat with one unearthed three mutual acquaintances). I was particularly interested in the section on Lavinia Malcolm, a woman I had never heard of but who was the first woman town councillor (1907) and the first woman Provost (Mayor – 1913) in Scotland. We noted that we must have walked past a plaque on her former home and decided to look out for it on our way back.

After the museum, we climbed up the Glen past this intriguing money mushroom – I’ve seen money trees before but this is a first – to the point where we could look back on the view you can see in the post header. Castle Campbell soon loomed over us.

We had spent so long in the museum that the castle was about to close by the time we got there, so we passed it by and returned down the other side of the glen. The lights had come on by the time we got back to Dollar making it look very festive.

As hoped, we found Lavinia’s house and memorial plaque.

My favourite kind of walk – countryside and history combined! For more walks of all kinds, pop over to Jo’s Monday Walk for a wide choice of topics.

#ThrowbackThursday: 2007

When I was looking for photographs to illustrate my recent posts on our Canadian Rockies trip of 2007, I came across these pictures from just after we came home. I’d forgotten about turning up to Aberdour Castle and discovering a falconry display was about to happen. I look ever so slightly nervous about that beak!

We also visited Castle Campbell on what seems to have been a lovely early autumn day.

We had a weekend in Newcastle-upon-Tyne so that I could attend a school reunion. The Quayside has improved enormously in the years decades since I was a teenager.

That 3-button cardigan makes me laugh – I wouldn’t mind betting someone reading this owned a similar one. Marks and Spencer sold them for months, though varying the colour-schemes quite regularly. We more or less had to have a cardigan rota at work to avoid wearing them on the same day.

I also saw the Angel of the North close up for the first, and so far only, time. I think it’s really impressive, though I know it’s not to everyone’s taste.

Angel of the North

I’d forgotten the two castle visits – we visit castles all the time – but I remember the reunion very clearly. I’m only in touch with one friend from those days but it was amazing how easy it was to chat to the others, even if I hadn’t seen them since the mid-1970s. I met the teacher in the photograph below too – I wonder if you can find me?

Rutherford 1971

Scottish Snapshots: A quartet of castles

Scottish Snapshots is a series of short posts about places I visited in 2013 but didn’t write about at the time

Scotland is not short of an iconic ruined castle or two. Last autumn, we visited four, all run by Historic Scotland. Since these posts are called Snapshots, I’m going to restrict myself to a photo and a fact about each.

Doune Castle

Doune Castle
Doune Castle
Fact

If you take an audio-tour of the castle, you’ll find it’s narrated by Terry Jones. Monty Python and the Holy Grail was filmed at Doune.

Bothwell Castle

Bothwell Castle
Bothwell Castle
Fact

In 1301, Edward I of England, “Hammer of the Scots”, brought 6,800 soldiers to the castle. A huge siege engine was hauled from Glasgow and the garrison surrendered within the month. Boo!

Dumbarton Castle

Dumbarton Castle
Dumbarton Castle
Fact

This castle is built high above the Clyde on the twin peaks of a volcanic rock. There are a lot of stairs!

Castle Campbell

Castle Campbell
Castle Campbell
Fact

Castle Campbell used to be known as Castle Gloom or Glume. As you can see, it’s not at all gloomy on a bright autumn day – and it’s a lovely walk up the glen from the village of Dollar.