Over the course of 25 years, the acclaimed writer, naturalist, and multidisciplinary artist, Ian Hamilton Finlay, created what would become his magnum opus: an art garden spanning seven idyllic acres of forest and moorlands in the Pentland Hills outside of Edinburgh.
Together with his wife Sue Finlay, Ian Hamilton Finlay commissioned masons and fellow artists to help him create magnificent Little Sparta. Located on the grounds of his residence, Stonypath, Little Sparta is an outdoor exhibition space inhabited by site-specific artworks forged by Finaly himself.
Themes of nature, history, and nostalgia are communicated through sculptures and installations that dot the pristinely-manicured landscape, which is sectioned off into nine smaller gardens — the Front Garden, Roman Garden, Julie’s Garden, the Allotment & Kailyard vegetable patches, the Temple Pool Garden, Woodland Garden, Lochan Eck Garden, and the wild English Parkland—each bearing specific characteristics and artistic interventions pertaining to a related motif.
Before his death in 2006, Finlay established the Little Sparta Trust to maintain the gardens and their artworks with as much skill and respect and they were created with. Today, visitors from around the world come to Little Sparta for a contemplative, restorative daytime excursion.
Know Before You Go
Little Sparta is open from June through September, Thursday through Sunday, 12:30-5pm with last admission at 4pm. There is no direct public transportation to Little Sparta. Visitors can take the 101/102 line between Edinburgh and Dumfries to the Dolphinton stop, or take public transportation to West Linton and book a taxi to the gardens.
Charter buses leave at 11:30am from the Scottish Poetry Library on the first Sundays in June, July, and September, and every Saturday in August. Little Sparta is an hour’s drive from Edinburgh and Glasgow. The estate provides parking for a handful of cars, which is located a 10 - 15minute walk to the garden. Visit the site for more information and detailed directions.
Wear sensible footwear, as the paths are uneven and unpaved. The garden is entirely outdoors, it is advisable to choose to a day that is clear and preferably dry.