Advice on scattering ashes

Woman scattering ashes next to a lake

Many people choose to scatter the ashes of a loved one in a location with a personal meaning or a connection to the person who has died. However, people are often unsure exactly what rules are in place about where then can and cannot scatter ashes.

Here is our guide to help answer some of the common questions around scattering ashes.

Where can you scatter ashes?

In the UK, you can scatter the ashes of someone you love in a variety of open places. This can be in a garden of remembrance, in a green space, over water, or on private land.

Some people request to have their ashes scattered in a place that was close to their heart. Others may not leave instruction. It's also possible to scatter ashes in multiple places, if preferred.

Here are some examples of where you can scatter ashes:

  • In a churchyard, cemetery or natural burial ground

  • Over the sea, a river or body of water

  • In a national park or public space

  • On private land (back garden, sports ground or private farmland)

Do you need permission to scatter ashes?

In the UK, there's no explicit law against scattering ashes, as long as you get permission from the person who owns the land.

The scattering ashes laws & regulations in the UK state that you don't need permission to scatter ashes on your own land or over a body of water.

If you want to scatter the ashes over public or other private land, you'll need to request the permission from the landowner. That includes parks, commons, beaches, or private farmland and churchyards.

You don’t need to request permission to scatter ashes over a river or in the sea, but you should check the advice from the environmental agency first.

Scattering ashes on a family grave or in a cemetery

Not all cemeteries allow scattering ashes, so check with the cemetery directly for their rules. If you own a plot of land in the cemetery, you should be able to scatter ashes over a family grave. Your funeral director can help you to make these arrangements.

Some crematoriums and cemeteries allow scattering of ashes in designated areas.

Scattering ashes at sea or in rivers

It’s common in some religions, such as Sikhism, to scatter ashes in a body of flowing water. This is a popular option for many people, religious or not.

Whilst you don't need permission from a landowner to scatter ashes over water, there are some environmental regulations to consider:

  • Make sure the place you choose isn't near a fishery or marina

  • Check that the site is no less than 1km upstream from a water plant or reservoir

  • If possible, choose a day with calm weather so that ashes are not blown into neighbouring land or areas

Scattering ashes on public land or parks

To scatter ashes in a public park or green space, you'll need to request permission from the local council. Most local councils and park trusts, such as the National Trust, will allow this, so long as the environmental guidelines are followed.

How to scatter ashes

Here are some tips on how to scatter ashes, following UK regulations and environmental guidance:

  • Find out who owns the land and seek their permission before you scatter ashes.

  • Scatter in a secluded area, ideally away from other people and avoiding the main pathways.

  • Be aware of the environment - avoid areas of special conservation and try not to disturb the ground.

  • Try to avoid busy periods such as Bank Holidays.

  • Try to avoid windy days.

  • If scattering on a cliff-top, check that no one is walking underneath before scattering.

  • Avoid scattering ashes on land where animals are grazing.

  • Use an ashes scattering container, known as a ‘scatter tube’ to help you scatter the ashes.

  • Memorials such as benches, plaques or plants should not be placed unless permission has been granted by the land owner.

Scattering ashes ceremony

You may like to hold a small ceremony around the scattering of ashes. This can offer a lovely moment for you to say some words for your loved one as you scatter the ashes in your chosen location.

What to say when scattering ashes

It's up to you what you'd like to say as you scatter ashes. Some people choose to say a short prayer or a religious reading as they lay a loved one to rest. Others might share personal stories or final words that they'd want to say to the person who has died. Another idea is to read a poem or lyrics from a favourite song.

Whatever you choose to say, it'll be a deeply personal moment between you and your loved ones.

If you'd like to speak to someone about what to do with your loved one's ashes, your local funeral home would be happy to help you, or you can read our article for other special ideas on what to do with ashes.