In early August we paid a visit to Little Sparta, the garden of Ian Hamilton Finlay. The garden is reached by a farm track which leads to a secluded spot on the edge of the Pentland Hills. It was designed by the late artist and poet Ian Hamilton Finlay, and became a long-term project after Finlay moved to the cottage with his wife Sue Finlay in the mid-1960s.
I’d encountered Finlay’s work before, at an exhibition at Kettle’s Yard in Cambridge, some years ago. I remember seeing a video in that exhibition made around the house and garden at Little Sparta, and I’d wanted to visit ever since.
I can’t quite find the words to adequately describe Little Sparta, except to say that it neatly wraps together nature, art and culture in a way which invites a slow and contemplative exploration by the visitor. It is both sensory and thought-provoking, and it pays to be observant when wandering through the lanes and gaps between the different parts of the garden. There’s much to discover. I’m sure I didn’t see everything, and I’d probably see something different if I visited again. It’s great that the garden is still maintained and open to visitors in the summer, thanks to the work of the Little Sparta Trust.