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Set in the Pentland Hills near Edinburgh, Little Sparta is Ian Hamilton Finlay’s greatest work of art. Imbued with a high idea content, the garden is created from the artistic fusion of poetic and sculptural elements with those of the natural landscape which is shaped and changed to become an inherent part of the concepts realised at Little Sparta.

While works of art are commonly viewed in galleries, public parks and streets, museums and private houses, it is perhaps a unique achievement to have created a garden which is itself a major artwork encompassing within it both horticultural elements and individual works in such materials as stone, wood and metal.

Finlay’s intentions are moral and philosophical as well as poetic. The themes dealt with in the garden are those which underlie the structures of society. The French Revolution, pre-Socratic views of the nature of the world. The Second World War, the sea and its fishing fleets are among the sources of metaphor and image which are realised in the garden’s art works which now number over 275.


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Photographs by Andrew Lawson except where noted