8 Moats Which Float Our Boats

Water in the garden is magical; more so if it’s adjacent to the house, requiring us to cross it to get to the front door. Maybe the magic stems from youth tales of castles and moats, but moats surely don’t exist only in castles.

Traditionally moats were crossed with a simple raised drawbridge, while modern moats are generally spanned by decked walkways or even concrete stepping stones. Using water near our houses may give us a few of the historic advantages of medieval moats — a sense of safety, controlled access to the house as well as the aesthetic pleasure of being near water.

You might believe that many of these examples aren’t moats in the literal sense, but undoubtedly those water characteristics have their roots in our medieval past.

Raymond Jungles, Inc..

If your home security does not involve gates and fencing, there must be something reassuring about having any visitors cross a drawbridge to your front door. Perhaps this reassurance is built into our bodies following our ancestors, that gained a sense of safety from being surrounded by water that kept both wild animals and enemies.

Controlling the access to your house may be an important safety benefit that the modern moat can supply, even if the moat is within the home’s perimeter, as shown here.

These randomly shaped stepping stones direct across the moat, fulfilling its original goal of obstructing the entrance but with more of a visual awareness of a barrier than a practical one.

Dick Clark + Associates

Modern moats don’t always fit to the medieval pattern of fully surrounding the house, but instead often abut the house on a couple of sides.

Again we see how accessibility to a house is controlled by using stepping stones that appear to float; those cross an underlit moat.

Exedra Architects

Even in the easiest of gardens, a moat could be both practical and ornamental. This basic timber-decked drawbridge creates easy access over the moat, once again bringing echoes previously.

In medieval times a more peaceful use of the moat was supposed to supply fish to the table. Within this modern setting, cosmetic fish now fill the moat, rather than carp or pike.

Coupard Architects and Builders

Not all moats contain water; a few ancient versions were only ditches dug around fortified buildings. Dry moats were used from the early-American colonists in New England to guard their forts. In certain respects the ha-ha, or sunken ditch, served the same purpose.

This raised bridge gives a spectacular entrance, as it crosses woodland surrounding the deck house.

Birdseye Design

Not all modern moats are used for the technical purposes of offering safety and suitable access; most are made only for aesthetic impact.

Large sheets of water, sometimes artificially darkened with dye or using dark structure stuff, beautifully reflect the construction and the landscape that surrounds it, blending the two together.


Reflections in moats could be enlivened with motion, producing patterns in the mirrored skies and landscape.

The easy tube waterfalls not only create motion in the moat, but also add atmospheric noise, while once again a boarded walk mirrors the drawbridges of the past.

Gregory Phillips Architects

In the end, a fantastic example of a minimalist moat. Pared down to its bones, this layout provides the advantages we’ve looked at: The walkway provides accessibility, and the sheet of water provides a sense of safety and beautifully reflects the garden.

More: Gardens Tap Into Rill Water Characteristics

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