Scattering ashes laws and regulations
After a cremation, you may decide you want to scatter your loved one’s ashes somewhere sentimental or at a specific burial site. They may have left instructions in their will asking for their ashes to be scattered at a National Park, or even at their favourite sports team’s ground. Whatever their wishes, or the decision you and your family make, there are laws on scattering ashes in the UK that you’ll need to be aware of.
This guide will provide an understanding of the laws and regulations involved when it comes to scattering ashes, and what your options are should you wish to scatter your loved one’s ashes in a certain place.
Do you need permission to scatter ashes?
In the UK, scattering ashes laws and regulations are quite flexible. You’re well within your rights to scatter your loved one’s ashes over land or water – provided you have permission from the landowner. Depending on the location of your preferred site for scattering ashes, you may need to speak with different people such as the local council, church, or private owner.
For example, if you choose to scatter your loved one’s ashes at a National Park or mountain top, there will be environmental guidelines to follow. It’s important not to cause any damage to the land – human ashes contain minerals that can cause harm to certain organisms, which is why it’s best to avoid areas of land that contain heavy vegetation.
If you want to bury your loved one’s ashes at a cemetery or another burial site, you’ll need to contact the organisation in charge of the land. To learn more about the process of burying ashes, see our guide to the interment of ashes.
Where can I scatter ashes?
Can you scatter ashes anywhere? The answer is yes, but there are guidelines to follow wherever you choose. The most common place for ashes to be scattered is at a family grave. But, there’s no reason why you can’t pick a different location of sentimental value.
Our article “9 Popular Places to Scatter Ashes in the UK” explores locations for scattering ashes such as hills and mountains, National Parks and Trusts, and even sporting venues.
Did your loved one spend time at sea? Did they grow up in a coastal town? They may wish to have their ashes scattered at sea, meaning you’ll need to follow Environmental Guidelines when scattering their ashes there.
Or, you may choose to scatter your loved one’s ashes in multiple locations. This is a perfect way to fulfil your loved one’s wishes and those of the family who are mourning.
Other places to scatter ashes in the UK
- River Thames – this is perfectly acceptable, however there are guidelines that have been put in place by the Port of London Authority. You mustn’t scatter ashes from London Bridge in case the ashes reach passing boats. You should also avoid windy days and try not to leave anything other than ashes in the water, such as wreaths as these can harm wildlife.
- Stonehenge – while you’re able to scatter ashes on the land around the stones (with permission from the English Heritage site), you’re not permitted to scatter ashes in the inner Stone Circle.
- St. Michael’s Mount – a picturesque location on the Cornwall peninsula, St Michael’s Mount is a sight held dear by many. When it comes to scattering ashes here, there are organised boat trips from Mount’s Bay, Penzance Harbour that take families out to sea to scatter ashes there. In terms of scattering ashes on the mount itself, it’s best to speak with the landowners and National Trust first.
- The Crown Estate – for anyone wishing to scatter their loved one’s ashes anywhere on the Crown Estate, there are guidelines that must be followed. It’s impossible to “book” a private ceremony as the general public have access to the Royal Landscape. Simple ceremonies with small numbers of people are acceptable; larger, more formal rituals aren’t. No vases or other monuments must be placed anywhere on the Crown Estate.
- Chatsworth House – this Derby county estate does allow the scattering of ashes but ask for certain rules to be followed. The scattering of ashes should be done early or late in the day to avoid busy times. Also, the areas used for ceremonies must be away from the popular locations, such as the house itself, the car park and the bridge.
There are plenty of other notable locations in the UK that permit the scattering of ashes. Just make sure you contact the local authorities to find out more about your options first.
For alternative things to do with your loved one’s ashes, see our page on What To Do With Cremation Ashes. If you’re still unsure about the scattering ashes laws and regulations, your Funeral Director can help. They’ll be able to give you advice on what you can and can’t do with your loved one’s ashes, and help you organise a scattering ceremony that meets the wishes of your loved one.