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.
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.
Keep on reading for our ideas for beautiful garden paths.
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.
Around £8-£12 per square metre, including landscape fabric. Widely available.
Larger 20mm gravel gets kicked about less and cats won't use it as a litter tray.
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.
More like this
£50-£100+ per square metre, including frame.
Timber paths are best in full sun where they've less chance of becoming slippery.
Small unit sizes like paviors, bricks and setts are ideal for creating gently curving paths without the need for fiddly cutting.
Around £30-£40 per square metre, excluding the sub-base.
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.
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.
Around £35-£45 per square metre for the stone.
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.
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.
£100-£150 per square metre (slate only).
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.
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.
Around £15-£35 per square metre.
Only buy frost-proof bricks suitable for paving use.
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.
Around £55 per square metre.
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 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.
Around £25 per square metre (materials only).
Lay the outside border first, then set the pebbles within on a wet bed of sand and cement. Consider off the peg, pebble sheets that are ready to lay to save time.
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.
Around £35-£45 per square metre (stone only).
Lay out the larger stones along the edge first as markers, then infill.
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.