Set in the Pentland Hills, near Edinburgh, Little Sparta is Ian Hamilton Finlay’s greatest work of art. Finlay moved to the farm of Stonypath in 1966 and, in partnership with his wife Sue Finlay, began to create what would become an internationally acclaimed garden across seven acres of a wild and exposed moorland site.

Collaborating with stone carvers, letterers and at times other artists and poets, the numerous sculptures and artworks created by Finlay, which are all integral to the garden, explore themes as diverse as the sea and its fishing fleets, our relationship to nature, classical antiquity, the French Revolution and the Second World War. Individual poetic and sculptural elements, in wood, stone and metal, are sited in relation to carefully structured landscaping and planting. In this way, the garden in its entirety is the artwork.

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Little Sparta welcomes visitors in June, July, August and September each year, respecting Finlay’s intention that the garden should be experienced when the trees and plants, all integral to the artwork, are in full leaf.

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Ian Hamilton Finlay & His Work

Ian Hamilton Finlay (1925 – 2006) was a poet, writer, visual artist and gardener. He is now internationally recognised for his work in each of these art forms.

Finlay was born in Nassau, the Bahamas, in 1925. Finlay’s father bootlegged alcohol from Nassau into the USA until the repeal of prohibition laws in 1933, when he and Finlay’s mother unsuccessfully attempted to start an orange-growing business in Florida, before returning to Scotland in straitened circumstances. Finlay himself had been sent to Scotland at the age of six, boarding first at Larchfield School near Helensburgh, then Dollar Academy.

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