Scattering ashes in a meaningful place is one of the most popular options for commemorating them, but if you've never done it before you might not how and where you can do it.
There are almost no laws on scattering ashes in the UK, but some organisations, including the Environment Agency and the Scottish Mountaineering Club have issued guidelines on scattering ashes in fragile environments. Our guide to scattering ashes explains everything you need to know about it.
What permission is needed for scattering ashes?
Scattering ashes is legal almost anywhere in the UK as long as you get the permission of a landowner. If you want to scatter ashes in a river or sea, however, you should confirm that is alright with the Environment Agency.
Where can you scatter ashes?
There are many different places you can scatter ashes in the UK – here are some of the most popular:
1. Private land
You may choose to scatter your loved one on private land, such as in a garden or field. The main thing to consider if you want to do this is that you must have the landowner’s permission.
Another consideration is visiting rights. For example, if you scatter ashes in your garden, but then many years later if you move house, you will not have any right to visit that private land.
2. Rivers, streams, lakes and the sea
Another popular choice for scattering ashes is across water bodies. You do not need to ask permission in order to do this, however it is advisable to check with the Environment Agency that the stretch you intend to use is not near a water extraction point. It is also best to avoid stretches with people bathing or fishing.
Scattering ashes at sea can be an affordable alternative to a burial at sea, which involves a licence and special coffin requirements. You do not need a licence to scatter ashes at sea and many beaches and coastlines are accessible to the public. You should, however, be considerate of other people who are using the beach and a choose a spot away from swimmers and fishermen. You should also be aware of wind conditions, as beaches and clifftops can be very windy.
The Environment Agency asks that you do not cast plastic wreaths or personal items that contain metal or plastic into water bodies as this will pollute the environment.
Scattering ashes on the beach is possible, but choose a sandy beach and make sure it is an area which is below the high tide line. Choosing a secluded area or a quiet time during the day when there are few people around reduces the likelihood of ashes being blown about. Also avoid scattering ashes at the beach’s entry or exit points.
3. Mountain or hilltops
Scattering ashes on mountains and hilltops can provide beautiful settings for saying goodbye to a loved one. Although cremation ashes are not toxic, the phosphate in cremated bones can over-stimulate plant growth if scattered in large amounts. It is best to avoid scattering ashes on mountain peaks, where plant ecosystems can be quite fragile and choose a spot further down the mountain and try to scatter the ashes over a wide area, not just in one small spot. Many mountaineering clubs and societies also request that permanent memorials, especially ones made from non-bidegradable materials, such as plastic, are not left anywhere on a mountain.
Finally, should also bear in mind that famous beauty spots and climbs may have many visitors and you may struggle to find a private spot to say goodbye. Also, mountainsides and hilltops can be very windy – try to stand upwind as you scatter the ashes.
4. In a woodland burial ground, cemetery or churchyard
Many crematoriums, cemeteries and woodland burial sites have designated sections for scattering ashes such as family grave sites or memorial gardens. Get in touch with your funeral director or cemetery or crematorium officer for more advice on these options and to request permission to scatter ashes in these areas.
5. Sporting venues
Scattering ashes at their favourite football stadium, rugby ground, cricket pitch or horse racing course is a popular way to honour the memory of a sports fan. Your funeral director will be able to help you approach the owner of sporting venues to ask permission but this usually depends on the policy of the club. Also, do keep in mind that it might be hard for you to access the spot again in the future. Some clubs, such as Queens Park Rangers, arrange annual memorial ceremonies for supporters who have died, which include scattering ashes on the pitch.
6. Several different places
Scattering ashes of a loved one needn’t take place in a singular location. If you choose, you can scatter portions of the ashes in several different places. Perhaps they had several favourite destinations, or you want part of the ashes in your garden at home and part of them scattered on a beach.
When deciding where to scatter cremation ashes, you may want to discuss the options with other relatives and loved ones. They may want to know where you choose to scatter the ashes, in case they want to visit to pay their respects in the future.
If you prefer not to scatter your loved one's ashes there are many other things you can do with them. Preserving ashes in a columbarium or burying ashes in a graveyard, or keeping them at home in an urn are increasingly popular, but you can also have them turned into memorial jewellery or blasted into space on a firework. For more information on cremation and what to do with ashes, read our guide to cremation.
You can also read our blog on creative ideas for scattering ashes for unusual ways to say goodbye to a loved one.