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.
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.
Repairs to Goose Hut, 2021. Based on Laugier’s notion of the Primitive Hut described in his Essay on Architecture of 1755, the goose hut looks back to the origins of
For Doors Open Days 2021, Little Sparta’s head gardener George Gilliland explores the idea that Little Sparta is a garden of the sea. This short film ‘Four Seasons in
Join head gardener George Gilliland on our free audio tour of Little Sparta. You can listen at home or you can download and listen when you visit us. From
The end of the visitor season. The month begins with what the weather forecast describes as an ‘anti-cyclonic gloom’ – a sequence of brooding grey skies, but then peaks with
More extremes of weather. Yet another month where it seems that extremes of weather happen within a few hours of one another. We have a sequence of drab muggy days,
Extremes of weather. This month has brought more extremes of weather – heavy downpours where it feels like weeks of accumulated rain fall in just a few hours, and then