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 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.
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.
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 are free admission.
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.
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
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.
Walking or rolling through the Japanese Garden is lovely. It was a nice warm day when we visited which made it more pleasant.
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.
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.
The reflection of the trees in the water was stunning especially as the water was like a sheet of glass.
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.
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.
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.
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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