The Japanese Garden · Cowden Castle · Scotland    A Restoration Appeal

2016 Brochure (pdf)

2014 Brochure (pdf)


11th October 2017

Cowden Garden will open to the public during the Spring of 2018. The restoration is progressing well, but until we raise the match funding to create the new entrance, the garden must remain closed to the public for safety reasons. We have received many generous donations and are now urgently seeking sponsorship to match the grants secured. Outstanding projects include the entrance, the education pavilion, two bridges and two remaining tea houses. All enquiries re: funding or possible sponsorship to .

Sara Stewart
Chair of the Trustees, Cowden Castle SCIO

Employment and Volunteering Opportunities

We are seeking

Employment Opportunities

Help us to raise £500,000 to rescue this historical gem

The restoration is still ongoing as we continue to raise funds. If you know of individuals, companies or trusts who you think may be interested in donating please email me at: .

There will be a list of donors in the new Pavilion for individuals/companies who are happy to be credited with helping to restore this historic garden. Structures could also be individually sponsored.

Sara Stewart
Chair of Trustees

Donate now with PayPal. Please also return the Gift Aid form below in order to maximise your contribution.

Alternatively you can donate by cheque or online bank transfer, see details here

Gift Aid Form (PDF)

Limited Edition Prints of Cowden by Nicky Philipps

edition of 300
20 x 24 ins
(unframed) mounted £280

To order please contact Sara Stewart:

020 7839 2792
Please note that the garden is closed until May 2018

View Nicky Philipps example works at Fine Art Commissions

"The most important Japanese garden in the Western World"

Professor Jijo Suzuki
18th Hereditary Head of the Soami School of Imperial Garden Design, Japan, 1925
(National Library of Scotland, Acc: 5058)

"Taki Handa was the first and only woman to have designed a Japanese Garden of this nature. The fact that she was appointed in 1908 is of significant interest worldwide."

Professor Fukuhara
Osaka University of Arts, Japan


"In a sheltered foothold of a grassy range of hills, that stretch from sunrise to sunset, lies the gardens of my dreams. As its background softly rounded hills breathe peace, after the fierce volcanic agencies that upraised them, and long aeons of time have moulded their forms into the undulating lines that encircle the surroundings of ‘Shãh-rak-uen’, the place of pleasure and delight."

A long look at life by two Victorians
Ella Christie & Alice Stewart

BBC Scotland report, May 2016

View a video update on the garden, from 13/5/2016.

BBC Scotland report, September 2014

View a short item on the garden, from Reporting Scotland 4/9/2014.



The Japanese Garden at Cowden is situated in the beautiful county of Clackmannanshire, thirty miles north-west of Edinburgh and nine miles south of the renowned Gleneagles Golf Course.

One of the few surviving sites of its kind in the United Kingdom, the Japanese Garden was created by my great, great aunt, Ella Christie (1861–1949). Known for her ambitious solo expeditions in the early 1900s (she was the first western woman to visit Samarkand and Khiva in Uzbekistan), Ella was inspired to create a Japanese garden at her home, Cowden Castle, during a visit to Kyoto in 1907. At that time the British cultural love-affair with Japan was approaching its height, but while many other Japanese-style gardens in Britain were a pastiche or mismatch of elements, Cowden was distinguished from the start by the involvement of Japanese practitioners familiar with the complexity of Japanese garden design.

Ella’s seven acre garden was designed by Taki Handa, overseen by Professor Jijo Suzuki and maintained by Shinzaburo Matsuo. Centred on a long artificial lake, the garden incorporated elements of three traditional Japanese garden forms: a pond and island garden; a stroll garden; and a tea-house garden.

Ella Christie died in 1949 and Cowden was inherited by her great nephew, Robert Stewart. Although the castle was demolished, the garden continued to be the favoured destination of many ‘garden tours’, until one night in 1963 when the tea houses, bridges and lanterns were vandalised beyond repair. During this time my father was occupied with county politics, his farm and raising five children. As much as he loved Cowden, he didn’t have the time, or the resources, to invest in full restoration. In addition, schemes suggested by various companies focussed on novelty theme parks; none of the designs saw the value of the garden as the primary destination.

In 2008, when my father was 82, Cowden was handed over to me. It has been my intention for some years to seek sponsorship to restore the historic garden and sensitively incorporate Imperial style Japanese architecture. The surrounding park still contains many of the trees planted by Ella’s father John Christie, a keen arborist.

In 2013 Professor Masao Fukuhara of Osaka University of Arts was giving a lecture in Scotland and asked to visit Cowden. Instantly enthusiastic, and with credentials that included restoring the Japanese Gardens at Tatton Park in Cheshire and Kew in London as well as winning the Gold Medal at Chelsea Flower Show, we knew instantly that the Professor was the man to oversee the project.

Restoration of this important site is a monumental task, but I feel passionately for its success; not just for those with an interest in historic gardens, but for the people of Japan who will be able to visit and enjoy another shared interest in Scotland.

Sara Stewart
May 2014