By Jill Morgan
When it comes from getting from A to B, our garden path ideas provide the balance of practicality and style that every plot needs. A good garden path is crucial for exploring your patch, and can take many different guises.
Whether it’s stepping out on to a sleek boardwalk that leads to smart deck or following a meandering trail of gravel that disappears into lush foliage, the type of path you choose and how it moves through the space can, literally, give your garden a whole new perspective.
Want to keep it formal? No problem – a smooth, paved surface with clean, straight edges will help create a simple but elegant style. Fancy something a little more exotic? Then a walkway of rugged wooden sleepers will help conjure up hot climes and highlight a mass of foliage too. Whatever type of material or approach you choose, it’s a great opportunity to reimagine and pep up your outside space.
Keep reading for our favourite garden path ideas, then head to our garden design ideas for more inspiring solutions for your outdoor space.
1. Line with colour
Plant a sea of colour around your path for a sensory experience. Planting en masse is especially effective – think bright coloured tulips, echinacea or even nasturtium. The bees and butterflies will love it too.
If you're after texture as well as colour, add ornamental grasses to the mix. Try miscanthus 'Indian Summer' for its flame-coloured stems and soft, feathery tops.
2. Experiment with scent
For paths that aren't used as often, try adding low-growing herbs such as thyme or wild chamomile. Tuck the plants in-between stones or slabs for a rustic, cottage-garden style look, which will release a beautiful fragrance as you pass by.
Don't forget about lavender, too, which looks lovely as an edging plant. It will add a welcome splash of colour along with its relaxing scent.
3. Add an archway
Archways are a fabulous way to elevate a path and make it feel magical. Wind roses or wisteria around an arbour for a stunning way to section your garden into rooms.
Or, if you're after something more dramatic, why not create a tunnel-like walkway of trained trees? The crab apple allée at Oak Spring, by garden designer Rachel 'Bunny' Mellon, is a stunning example.
4. Add instant character
Want to inject some charm and mystery into your plot? Then a freeform mix of reclaimed cobbles and paving will create a tapestry of texture, that will only get richer as moss and lichen take hold.
Architectural salvage yards are great hunting grounds for suitable materials. Think carefully how best to arrange your finds, a snaking route works well with these smaller components.
You may also wish to emphasise a particular section of your path or a specific corner – try laying a square of paving and fill in with a symmetrical pattern or concentrate a particular type of paviour or stone in one area.
Once happy with the design, choose smooth, sculptural seating – such as a pair of these Raviolo Outdoor Armchair by Magis – for a uber-chic finishing touch.
5. Try a raised boardwalk
Add a tropical vibe to your garden with a series of slick, wooden deckboards that weave through densely planted borders. Designed by Cityscapers, this garden is made even more dramatic by the walkways being set on an angle, at varying levels.
The rich, red tones of the timber are enhanced by the rusty Corten steel risers and are the perfect complementary colour for the lush green planting.
6. Illuminate the way
Add some drama to a straight path with a line of super stylish post lights. These Regent Mast path lights from Garden Trading look good both day and night. Made from powder-coated steel their tall, slender design and smooth carbon finish blend effortlessly with simple, clipped Box hedging.
When switched on, the neatly concealed lamps shine pools of light down on to the paving, safely guiding the way and adding an inviting touch too. Mains powered, these lights will need installing by a qualified electrician. Head to our garden lighting ideas for more inspiration.
7. Choose playful stepping stones
Conjure up that Secret Garden feel with a series of Log Stepping Stones from Homebase. Made from soft timber and treated to last up to 15 years, they will add a magical touch to a secluded corner.
With little installation required, wind them in and amongst tall, shrubs, tree trunks and ornamental grasses to create a meandering pathway. Nestle them into a bed of gravel or bark chippings, making sure they are level and a comfortable ‘stride’ apart. But what’s best is that you can easily lift and move them whenever you fancy.
8. Weave with gravel
Serene and effortlessly sophisticated, this white gravel path takes on an almost ethereal charm, winding its way between these flowing borders. Designed by Jinny Blom, it’s hard to resist finding out exactly where the trail leads too.
Perhaps the secret to its success is the contrast of the closely packed planting in vibrant shades of green and white against the ribbon of tiny, white stones. Perfect for showing that a cool and romantic garden can have a contemporary edge too.
9. Dot them with light
Perfect for outlining the curviest of pathways, these neat, little LED cube garden path lights from Lights4Fun are solar powered. Thanks to their inbuilt solar sensor they will turn on at dusk and give out a warm and welcoming glow.
Made from ice effect glass they are robust enough to be left out all year round. Simply place one every 50cm or so along the edge of the path, and they can be easily moved if needed.
10. Mix up textures
Super straight paths don’t have to be boring. Instead treat them as a chance to play with different materials and to create bold patterns. Here smooth, black granite planks with their crisp, sawn edges emphasis the width of the walkway and have been repeatedly divided with rounded, white cobbles.
The effect is contemporary, truly stunning and far from dull. These black granite planks are from London Stone.
11. Build a hassle-free boardwalk
There’s something adventurous about a boardwalk and what could be better than having one in your own garden. Cool and contemporary they made a striking statement, sound great underfoot and, when made from composite decking, they need little upkeep too.
Engineered from a mix of recycled wood fibres and plastics, these Smoked Oak boards from Millboard have all the grain and texture of natural timber and resist the growth of slippery moss and algae.
12. Mow your own
Paths don’t have to be paved, or even hard underfoot, and often the most enchanting are those that appear to be completely spontaneous. What could be more intriguing than a mown path through a wildflower meadow?
Quick and easy to do, you can make the route as twisty or direct as you like. Be kind to your lawn mower by creating your path while the grass is low and repeating fortnightly.
Alternatively, you may want to strim long grass first (you can find the best strimmer in our guide), before mowing neatly. Just check the route is free of wildlife before you start. This beautiful garden was designed by Rebecca Smith Garden Design. Find more advice on how to mow a lawn in our guide.
13. Go for lavish pattern
Take a design tip from the Victorian’s and use garden paving that’s bound to get noticed, especially when used as an elegant pathway in a front garden. This Osterley Terracotta Tile from Topps Tiles is an intricate mosaic design.
Set on the diagonal and featuring just three different colours, it would have traditionally been featured leading up to the front door but there is no reason why it wouldn’t work in the back garden, guiding the way to a patio or secluded seating area.
Get the full formal effect by outlining with border tiles and rope edging for a real sense of occasion.
14. Choose a ‘broken edge’
Blending plants and paving can be a tricky business – straight-cut edges can look harsh and formal while no edges at all can be plain messy. How about this for a stylish compromise?
In this garden, pale Ashbourne Beige porcelain paving from Westminster Stone, has been laid on the diagonal with deliberately staggered edges. This jagged arrangement enables the softly planted, billowing borders to spill out on to the stone, blurring the sharp lines and creating a more relaxed yet still elegant look.
15. Show off timber sleepers
Robust and industrial – timber sleepers have an undeniable charm and look great packed together as a garden path. Each has its own unique grain and markings, and if you patchwork different size lengths together, staggering the joins, you can create a pathway full of character.
Vary the width of the path and create sweeps and curves to help create a sense of movement. Don’t try to be too intricate with the design though, as the end result will just appear fussy. Try the Brown Treated Sleepers from Wickes for a similar look.
16. Step it up
Changing direction and levels are great ways to add interest to any walkway, but they look particularly effective when the path is made of composite decking. Sleek and dark in tone, the slim wood-effect deckboards highlight these different planes and inset LED lights add extra drama too.
Plan any joins carefully to make sure the boards are neatly mitred, sit level and that they are well-supported by the joists underneath. Covering the edges with matching fascia boards will also ensure the supporting joists remain neatly hidden. These Eva-Last composite deckboards from Wickes have been combined from LED deck lights.
17. Timelessly intricate
Handcrafted brick pavers are a thing of real beauty and will instantly bring warmth, texture and a sense of heritage to any garden, particularly cottage-style gardens. Found in the kitchen gardens of yesteryear, these baked clay units can be laid in endless patterns – from chevrons, Soldier course, herringbone to basketweave – and will prove as elegant and mesmerising as any designer planting scheme. Installation is definitely a job best left to the professionals and the product can be pricey, but these are a garden feature to treasure for years. These beautiful handmade brick pavers are from York Handmade Brick Company.
18. Frame a pathway
Adding height along a path is a nifty trick to make any space look and feel much larger. From rows of stately trees, clipped hedges or elegant obelisks, such as these classic painted obelisks from the Wooden Obelisk Company, the effect is to increase the sense of perspective, helping to visually ‘stretch’ the view ahead. In this idyllic Cotswold garden, the flagstone paving gently leads to the courtyard beyond, while three pairs of handcrafted obelisks add structure and shape to the herbaceous borders on either side.
What is the cheapest way to make a garden path?
'If you are resourceful, you can create a garden path for next to nothing,' says Gardeningetc's Amy Cutmore. 'During lockdown last spring, I put a shout out on my village's community Facebook group, asking for old house bricks. I had an amazing response, and collected hundreds of free bricks from locals keen to get rid of them.'
'Many were caked in dirt or paint, but after a good hose down with a pressure washer, they looked great. I then dug out a route for the path, laid some ground cover sheeting to stop any weeds from growing up, and put sharp sand on top.'
'Next, I arranged the bricks in a pattern, embedding them in the sharp sand, and filled the gaps between with some old gravel that had previously formed our garden path.'
'We now have two beautiful and rustic paths – one to our front door and one to the garden shed. And all we had to buy was some membrane – a kind neighbour even gave us the sharp sand left over from a building project!'
What is the best gravel for a garden path?
There are many types of gravel available for walkways, but make sure you pick with comfort in mind as well as style.
A medium-sized gravel of around 10mm is considered the best choice. Go for varieties with smooth, rounded shapes where possible, for maximum comfort underfoot.
When it comes to colour, pick tones that match other areas in your garden, for a cohesive feel. Using a local stone will often add an extra special touch.
What is the best material for walkways?
From gravel and natural stone, to slate, brick or timber, there are plenty of materials to use for a walkway. Bear a few things in mind when deciding the best, such as your budget, the local climate, and how the path will be used.
Brick tends to be a good all-rounder, as it's durable, attractive, and relatively inexpensive. Be careful in shady or damp conditions though, as brick paths can become slippery with moss – as can timber.
Natural stones such as slate is a stylish and hard-wearing choice, but often expensive to install. Gravel is great as a more affordable option, although make sure to edge your pathway to avoid loose stones being knocked onto lawns!
Wax polymer is a good, yet perhaps less-known choice for larger plots. A combination of decomposed granite and wax, it results in 'a dustless, durable, and aesthetically pleasing pathway that’s especially suitable for use in patios and nonlinear, sloped paths,' says Urdesignmag.
'Wax polymer is also easy to maintain and won’t get muddy, which is why it’s such a popular material in golf courses'.
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