UK Based Travel & Disabled Blogger


Visiting The Japanese Garden at Cowden In A Wheelchair

Well, the school summer holidays are over in Scotland. It’s been a quick seven weeks. I know most parents are ecstatic that the kids are back to school, but I’ve enjoyed seeing my nephew most days during the week again. To make the most of the days we saw him during this holiday we tried to do lots of fun things. Simple things like going to our local park for picnics and to play in the play park. We also went somewhere we hadn’t been to before. Or even heard of it until just a few weeks ago. So we jumped in the car and headed to The Japanese Garden at Cowden in Dollar.

The Japanese Garden at Cowden

The Japanese Garden at Cowden has a long history dating back to 1908 when it was first created. Sadly, in 1955 it was closed to the public and then some years later it was vandalised by teenagers. Since 2013 the Garden has been undergoing a restoration by Professor Masao Fukuhara from Osaka University of Arts, Japan who was appointed to restore the garden. It’s known as ‘the most important Japanese garden in the Western World’, which is pretty impressive.

Visiting The Japanese Garden at Cowden In A Wheelchair

We can’t believe we never knew this place existed, especially living so close. It looked beautiful after briefly checking it out online. So I headed there one afternoon after finishing work with Allan, my Mum and nephew.

Emma driving across gravel paths in the Japanese Garden at Cowden.

Getting There & Disabled Parking

The Japanese Garden is located in Dollar which is about half an hour from us. It’s tucked away so not really on the main road, but easy to find using Google maps.

A Ford Tourneo connect wheelchair accessible vehicle parked in the disabled parking bay at Japanese Garden at Cowden. Emma's nephew is also standing next to the car.The car park was a decent size and there were disabled parking bays available when we arrived. The car park surface is gravel, which I was able to manage in my powered wheelchair.

Wheelchair Access Around The Japanese Garden

There was a slightly sloped path from the car park to the ticket office and tea room. We bought our tickets which included an adult £6, child £4 and disabled and carer is free admission.

Japanese Garden at Cowden ticket office.
Emma and her Mum coming out of the ticket office at Japanese Garden at Cowden.

Accessible Toilet

Just outside the ticket office was the accessible toilet. It was a large green box with a good amount of space inside. Doubling up as a baby changing room as well. The way the baby changing table was positioned was right next to the toilet making a right-hand side wheelchair transfer difficult.

The accessible toilets at Japanese Garden at Cowden. Inside the accessible toilets at Japanese Garden at Cowden.

There were grab bars on each side of the toilet and sink and an emergency cord too. Unfortunately, the emergency cord was tied up preventing it from hanging freely to the floor. I was kicking myself as I didn’t have any of my Euan’s Guide red cord cards with me like I usually do.

Japanese Garden Wheelchair Access

A sign with "Japanese Garden" stuck in the grass showing the direction to the Japanese Garden.

We were given a ticket with a code to enter the Woodland Walk as well as stickers to wear and we were on our way.

A little boy walking into the entrance of Japanese Garden at Cowden.

Walking or rolling through the Japanese Garden is lovely. It was a nice warm day when we visited which made it more pleasant.

Emma sitting in her wheelchair facing towards the bridge that crosses the stream into the Japanese Garden.

The paths throughout the gardens are mainly loose rough gravel, which can be a little bumpy in a wheelchair. I found it easier in my powered wheelchair, but manual wheelchair users may find it more difficult unless with someone who can help to push a little.

I couldn’t help but think that tarmacked paths would make such a difference to the overall experience for wheelchair users. Anyone with limited mobility walking around would also need to take care so they don’t trip.

Emma driving across the bridge into the Japanese Garden at Cowden.
A small lip onto the bridge

A close up of a wild mushroom with Emma and her Mum's silhouette in the background.

Cute little bridges, wild mushrooms, dragonflies and pretty flowers galore. Everywhere you look there is something pretty to admire. There were spots to sit with views of the Japanese pond with lily pads and beautiful bright pink flowers.

A pink and white Lily pad flower in the pond at Japanese Garden at Cowden.A view across the pond at Japanese Garden at Cowden.Emma's mum and nephew walking across a narrow path over the lily pad pond. The trees reflecting onto the pond at Japanese Garden at Cowden.

The reflection of the trees in the water was stunning especially as the water was like a sheet of glass.

A little boy (Emma's nephew) crossing the stream by stepping on the stepping stones. Emma's Mum and nephew walking across the grass in the Japanese Garden. Emma's partner and nephew sitting inside the Japanese House looking across the pond.Emma's nephew exploring through curly tree branches. Emma's nephew sitting down beside the pond.

My nephew had a great time exploring every nook and cranny as well as looking for different types of dragonflies and insects. He loves the outdoors and being an explorer with his Uncle Allan.

A close up of a tree with a Japanese House in the background.

After enjoying the Japanese Garden we made our way past the car park to the woodland walk. My mum picked up a free children’s pack from the ticket office for my nephew to complete throughout the woodland walk. Unfortunately, as we approached the entrance to the woodland walk we read the sign advising that is wasn’t wheelchair accessible.

Emma crossing a small wooden bridge in her wheelchair with a stream flowing underneath. A close up of bees on a flower.

We were disappointed that the girl serving us in the ticket office didn’t make us aware that we couldn’t access the woodland walk. So the ticket she gave us with the code was pointless. I felt so bad that my nephew wasn’t able to enjoy the woodland walk and look out for the fairies and insects.

We decided to walk back to the ticket office to let the girl know that she had given us a ticket for something we couldn’t actually access. She told us she realised once we had left the ticket office originally. I appreciate this was a genuine mistake, but I hope that the staff will be given some disability awareness and general awareness of the accessibility in and around the gardens so visitors can be informed correctly.

Emma sitting in her wheelchair in the Japanese Garden.

Final Thoughts

The Japanese Garden at Cowden in Dollar is a stunning visitor attraction. It was lovely to walk around the Japanese Garden as well as the Christie Walk which is to the right of the garden. Although we were a little disappointed that the Woodland Walk wasn’t wheelchair accessible. Hopefully, over time as the project develops there will be improvements in the overall accessibility in terms of smoother paths, purpose-built toilets and opening up the Woodland Walk to wheelchair users. Would I visit again? Yes, I’m pretty sure I would.

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Meet Emma

Hello I’m Emma. My mission is to show you the possibilities of accessible travel through my travel guides, tips and reviews. I also share personal stories, live event reviews and more.

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7 Responses

  1. Lovely photos- I used to visit this place in the late 80’s as a kid. It seemed miles from Dollar back then and a bit of a secret. Good to see that it has been restored to its past beauty. Keep up the great work.

    1. Thank you so much for your comment, Andrew. It really is a lovely place and it’s great they have restored it. To be honest, it still feels like a bit of a secret 🙂

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