A stone and pebble pathway

Nine ideas for garden paths

Paths aren't just about getting from A to B – they are an important feature in their own right. Check out nine stylish pathways.

Paths are a key practical element in any garden, easing access and keeping feet off muddy soil and lawns.

This doesn’t mean they shouldn’t look good, though. The garden path, including its direction, width, material and adjacent planting can turn it into a design feature, helping to determine the style of a garden.

Paths are a key practical element in any garden, easing access and keeping feet off muddy soil and lawns.

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This doesn’t mean they shouldn’t look good, though. The garden path, including its direction, width, material and adjacent planting can turn it into a design feature, helping to determine the style of a garden.

When you’re designing your path, think about the width it needs to be and the route it’ll take, then find a material that will suit the style of your garden and fit your budget. Loose materials like gravel and bark can work well and are cheaper than brick or stone paving. Remember, it’s less about what you use and more about how you use it that will make your garden feel well thought out.

Seeking more garden design inspiration? Check out these ideas for garden walls and fences and discover the three golden rules of garden design.

Keep on reading for our ideas for beautiful garden paths.

The garden path, including its direction, width, material and adjacent planting can turn it into a design feature.

1

Gravels and chips

Loose materials such as gravel are the best value per metre for paths and create natural looking and continuous texture. Little preparation needed on firm ground and can be placed quickly. Go for lighter tones in shady areas.

Cost Around £8-£12 per square metre, including landscape fabric. Widely available.

Our tip Larger 20mm gravel gets kicked about less and cats won’t use it as a litter tray.

A pathway of pale-golden gravel
A pathway of pale-golden gravel
2

Decking

Decking paths work well in town and city gardens, extending the contemporary feel of a decked terrace out into the rest of the garden. They don’t need solid foundations and are free draining, so are great for creating level changes in sloping gardens.

Cost £50-£100+ per square metre, including frame.

Our tip Timber paths are best in full sun where they’ve less chance of becoming slippery.

A decking pathway with yew topiary balls, bordering a pond
A decking pathway with yew topiary balls, bordering a pond
3

Small units

Small unit sizes like paviors, bricks and setts are ideal for creating gently curving paths without the need for fiddly cutting.

Cost Around £30-£40 per square metre, excluding the sub-base.

Our tip Haunch the outside edges of the path to stop the paviors falling away and bring the soil and planting level up, so the path feels set at ground level, not above it.

A curved pathway of grey paviors
A curved pathway of grey paviors
4

Flagstones and pavers

Using a large unit size such as flagstones or paving slabs with close pointing gaps forms a very practical surface and a clean look.

Cost Around £35-£45 per square metre for the stone.

Our tip With random sizes stagger the joints so they don’t all line up. The tricky aspect of this path is the tight curved cuts along the edges, so consider leaving a few out and planting in ground cover plants instead, to help soften it.

A flagstone pathway between curved brick wall edged raised planters
A flagstone pathway between curved brick wall edged raised planters
5

Slate and stone

Slate and stone paving laid on edge is particularly eye-catching and forms a grippy surface that’s useful in damp, shady areas or on slopes.

Cost £100-£150 per square metre (slate only).

Our tip: Laying paving this way can use a lot of material and be time consuming to cut into strips, so consider using as a smaller detail within a path.

A pathway of slate laid on its edge
A pathway of slate laid on its edge
6

Bricks

Using the same material as the house or any walling within the garden will immediately tie those elements together and give a continuity to the space. The direction of the bricks makes a difference, too, and when laid in straight lines will draw the eye to a focal point.

Cost Around £15-£35 per square metre.

Our tip Only buy frost-proof bricks suitable for paving use.

A straight pathway of red house bricks
A straight pathway of red house bricks
7

Wooden sleepers

These give a solid, chunky look to a path and can be butted up to each other or staggered with gaps for planting, bark or aggregates. Pressure wash occasionally to prevent them getting slippery.

Cost Around £55 per square metre.

Our tip Opt for new, 100mm deep sleepers. These shallower sleepers are cheaper and easier to build with. Set them on sand and cement so they don’t rock.

A pathway of wooden sleepers
A pathway of wooden sleepers
8

Pebbles

A hand-crafted pebble path can look fabulous as a feature in its own right and works particularly well in a small garden where the detail can be appreciated.

Cost Around £25 per square metre (materials only).

Our tip Lay the outside border first, then set the pebbles within on a wet bed of sand and cement. Consider off the peg pebble sheets ready to lay to save time.

A white pebble pathway
A white pebble pathway
9

Stones

Combining various sizes of stone and pebbles creates a fabulous rustic look and forges the overall style of the garden. Set the main path into a sand and cement base and the edges that won’t be walked on can be placed loose to bleed out into the planting.

Cost Around £35-£45 per square metre (stone only).

Our tip Lay out the larger stones along the edge first as markers, then infill.

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A stone and pebble pathway
A stone and pebble pathway
Criss-crossed, narrow brick pathway
Criss-crossed, narrow brick pathway

Dos and don’ts of paths

  • Do set out the line of the path with string or hosepipe first. Walk several times and view from all angles to be sure it works design-wise and practically
  • Do try and use larger material sizes in larger gardens – lots of small units like setts can look fussy. In small gardens large and extra-large units can work well
  • Do measure bricks, paviors and paving precisely, or, in the case of random sizes, lay them out on the ground first so there are no surprises
  • Do think about the planting as you design a path – where can you soften the path design and tie it into the rest of the planting in the garden
  • Do consider drainage and ideally set a hard path with a camber or slight fall
  • Don’t make a curved path too wiggly so you have to cut corners when walking. A path should always take a ‘desire line’ and feel easy to walk
  • Don’t make a path so narrow that it becomes awkward or has so many plants encroaching that it deters you from walking down it
  • Don’t build a path above lawn level as it’ll create a tricky mowing edge. Either set it just below or have a planting area in between
  • Don’t create a long formal path which draws the eye along it and then not have a generous feature at the end, such as a large pot or bench

Paths are a key practical element in any garden, easing access and keeping feet off muddy soil and lawns.

This doesn’t mean they shouldn’t look good, though. The garden path, including its direction, width, material and adjacent planting can turn it into a design feature, helping to determine the style of a garden.

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