Scottish fact of the week: Little Sparta

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Surely among one of Scotland’s most treasured green spaces, Little Sparta in Dunsyre, Lanarkshire has been called many things.

Ostensibly, it is a sprawling garden designed over a 30-year period by the late artist, poet and sculptor Ian Hamilton Finlay, along with his wife Sue and several others. Other visitors have seen fit to bestow grander titles - The Scotsman’s Peter Ross has described the journey to Little Sparta as a “pilgrimage”. Laden with references, both clear and hidden, to classic literature, ancient civilisations, philosophy and historic events (World War II, for example, features prominently), the garden is a special treat for those with a bit of knowledge of, say, the ancient Greeks.

Poet and artist Ian Hamilton Finlay in his garden Little Sparta in South Lanarkshire.  Photo ROBERT PERRY..2/6/2000

Poet and artist Ian Hamilton Finlay in his garden Little Sparta in South Lanarkshire. Photo ROBERT PERRY..2/6/2000

That said, Little Sparta is a pleasure to gaze upon regardless. With over 275 artworks dotting the site, including a number of stones that resemble classic Roman pillars, gravestones, and slabs with strips of classic literature etched on them. Though visitors are offered a map to navigate the winding green pathways and corridors, you’re best advised to lose yourself in this rather wonderful corner of Scotland, which stands as a testament to Finlay’s imagination.

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