Shãh-Rak-Uen

‘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

At the turn of the 20th century, the Scottish adventurer Ella Christie returned home from a trip to the Orient inspired to build a Japanese garden. As might be expected from the first Western woman to meet the Dalai Lama, Christie’s approach to developing the garden was trailblazing. She chose a female designer –the gifted Taki Handa–to create the seven acre site in the grounds of Cowden Castle, thirty miles north west of Edinburgh. In so doing, The Japanese Garden at Cowden became the first and only garden of its size and scale to be designed by a woman. It remains a unique and utterly authentic bridge between Scottish and Japanese culture.

Sadly vandalised in the 1960s, the garden is now being brought back to life by a team of experts led by the renowned Japanese architect and garden designer Professor Masao Fukuhara from Osaka University of Arts.

To enable them to complete the works, the trustees of the Cowden Castle Japanese Garden charity are seeking financial support. Funds raised will be used exclusively to complete the transformation of Ella Christie and Taki Handa’s remarkable legacy into a garden to serve a range of educational and palliative needs.

Although the restoration is not complete, the trustees have taken the decision to welcome visitors in 2018.  However, it is extremely important that people realise that although Cowden is beautiful and we have introduced an extended woodland walk, the restoration is ongoing.  We hope visitors will appreciate being part of the experience of the re-emergence of a unique and internationally important garden.

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