A Desirable Charity

“The access to the Japanese Garden has been funded by Forth Valley and Lomond LEADER and the Scottish Government through the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development: Europe investing in rural areas.” The gates are still being constructed and a photograph will be posted here once they are installed.

A full market appraisal was commissioned by Historic Scotland and provided by Jura Consultants. The report identified visitor numbers by comparing attractions and competition and provided a financial appraisal to ensure that the garden can be sustained as a viable operation and well-maintained site. Cowden will be an important additional visitor attraction in Central Scotland, attracting both local people and visitors from much further afield, significantly adding to the economy of the area. There is also considerable opportunity to deliver outreach, learning and training benefits to inspire and inform visitors.

Market Populations

Local market: 280,000 within a 30 minute drive of the garden
Day trip market: 3,000,000 within a 90 minute drive of the garden
Education market: 24 local schools

Local visitor numbers (2016)

Local Attraction Proximity (by Car) Visitor Numbers
Castle Campbell 5 minutes 12,695
The Kelpies 25 minutes 34,102
 Stirling Castle 25 minutes 458,00
Callender Wood 20 minutes 110,500
Bannockburn Heritage Centre 30 minutes 54,203


Proximity to Castle Campbell suggests there is a market in the area to take advantage of. By car Cowden is 45 minutes from Edinburgh: an hour from Glasgow: and 20 minutes from Gleneagles and Stirling.

Estimated visitor numbers to Cowden, May to October. These figures are based on provision of basic refreshments; they should increase significantly once the tea room/visitor centre is built.

Open Year 1 Year 5
Three days a week 7,000 11,000
Four days a week 9,300 14,665


Additional visitors will be boost the annual figures via guided tours, private hires, weddings, wedding photographs, lectures, art and photography courses.

General Admission
£6 per head until the garden is established.
£4.50 average taking into account children and other concessions.
£10 per head for lectures/guided tours.


Restoration to date has been made possible by many generous benefactors. Sponsorship from Historic Scotland and John Swire and Sons enabled the Trustees to employ consultants to produce the application for the Heritage Lottery Fund Grant and also the Conservation Management Plan. Other grants/donations awarded to Cowden to date include: Links Between Activities Developing the Rural Economy (£79,400); The Japan World Exposition Commemorative Fund Project; The Mushroom Trust; Finnis Scott; Baillie Gifford; John L S Grant; Lennox Hannay Trust; Fine Art Commissions Ltd; Ellis Campbell Group; Nicky Philipps Ltd; and many equally generous private individuals. Several applications are still outstanding. In addition, invaluable consultancy has been provided by Mark Gibson. We are delighted to be collaborating officially with The Royal Botanic Gardens in Japan and to have endorsement from The Ambassador of Japan, The Consul General of Japan, and Tony Kirkham, Head of the Arboretum, Royal Botanic Gardens Kew.


Historic Environment Scotland included Cowden in their Inventory of Designed Landscapes with the classifications: Work of Art and Historical Significance: ‘Outstanding’. Nature Conservation, Archaeological, Architectural: ‘High’


The Consul General of Japan has visited the garden three times with a view to gaining funding from Japan.


Royal Botanic Gardens, Edinburgh
David Knott visited the site and recommended Kate White for the position of Head Gardener at Cowden. RBG support is particularly strong and they wish to be actively involved as well as donating Japanese plants.


Royal Botanic Gardens Kew Gardens
Sara Stewart met Tony Kirkham, Head of Arboretum, Gardens & Horticulture Services. Support was forthcoming for the continued restoration and for future relationships.


Scotland’s Garden and Landscape Heritage
The Vice Chair of SGLH is supportive of the project.


Cowden is a member of Discover Scottish Gardens.


Scotland’s Garden Scheme – Members of two branches have booked guided tours.


Magnus Linklater, former Chairman Scottish Arts Council and Sir George Reid, former Presiding Officer of the Scottish Parliament, are patrons of Cowden.


Media Coverage
The press coverage of the garden and its potential restoration has been favourable and has significantly raised the profile of the garden locally and abroad.

BBC Reporting Scotland, twice
Nikkei, Japan’s most prolific economic newspaper
The Garden – RHS Journal
The Times
Society of Antiquaries of Scotland
Country Life
Stirling Observer


‘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, 2014

Unique Japanese-style garden at Cowden recognised for its national importance

Elizabeth McCrone, Head of Listing and Designed Landscapes, said:

‘The story of Cowden is a fascinating one.It was once described as the best Japanese garden in the Western world and was visited by Queen Mary in the late 1930s. It is of outstanding importance for its value as a work of art and its historic value, and also of high importance for its horticultural, nature con servation and archaeo-logical value. It came into being due to the determination of a remark able woman, Ella Christie who named it Shāh-rak-uen, “a place of pleasure and delight.” I am delighted that her garden has recognition through its inclusion in the Inventory.’

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