Cowden Castle


The remains of a 14th Century castle, Cowden Castle lies just to the north of the A91 Trunk Road, 2 miles (3 km) northeast of Dollar in NE Clackmannanshire. A 16th Century archway survives.

The castle and estate were once owned by the Bishops of St. Andrews, when it was known as Castleton. A later mansion on the site was built for John Christie (1824 - 1902), a wealthy Lanarkshire coal-owner who bought the estate in 1865, but the house was demolished in 1952. The estate is now the property of the Stewart family, descendents of the Christies.

The estate is particularly notable for its 2.7-ha (6.7-acre) Japanese garden, called Shah-rak-uen or "place of pleasure and delight". This was laid out between 1907 and 1930 by Taki Handa, a female graduate of the Imperial School of Garden Design in Nagoya, under the supervision of explorer and travel writer Ella Christie (1861 - 1949). Professor Jijo Suzuki, Head of the Imperial School, came to provide advice, especially on plants that were brought from Japan. It included all of the components of a formal Japanese garden; a Shinto shrine, a tea house on an island in an artificial little lake, bridges and lanterns. Described as "the best Japanese garden in the western world", it was visited by Queen Mary in 1932. Unfortunately it was all but destroyed by vandals in the 1960s. Despite this, the garden was recognised by Historic Environment Scotland in 2013 as having outstanding historical and artistic importance. After a fundraising campaign and considerable work under the supervision of Professor Masao Fukuhara of Osaka University, it reopened to the public in 2016, with an ongoing restoration intent on returning the garden to its former glory.

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