Scottish fact of the week: Little Sparta

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

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

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.

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