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Top 5 places to scatter ashes

Scattering ashes at sea

After a cremation, there are many things you can do with your loved one’s ashes. You can choose to entomb the ashes in a columbarium, bury them in a graveyard, or keep them at home in an urn. There is also an increasing number of unusual ways to use ashes too, such as turning them into glass memorial jewellery or having them sent into space.

Many people, however, choose to scatter the ashes of their loved one. You may choose to have a small ceremony as the ashes are scattered, involving some close friends and relatives. There are many different places you can scatter ashes – 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 you move house, you will not have any right to visit that private land.

2. Rivers

Another popular choice for scattering ashes is rivers, streams and lakes. You do not need to ask permission to do this, however it is advisable to check with the Environment Agency that the stretch of river you intend to use is not near a water extraction point. It is also best if you avoid stretches of river with people bathing or fishing.

Some people choose to add cut flowers or petals to the ashes in order to see their flow down the river and to mark the occasion as one of remembrance. However, the Environment Agency asks that you do not cast plastic wreaths or flowers into the river, as this will pollute the environment.

3. At sea

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.

You can also hire a boat to scatter ashes at sea, though obviously this will be costlier. Weather conditions may affect when you can conduct the scattering.

4. Mountain or hilltops

Mountains and hilltops can provide beautiful settings for saying goodbye to a loved one. However, there are a few things to consider. Although cremation ashes are not toxic, they can have an impact on plant life in large amounts. For this reason, avoid scattering ashes on mountain peaks, where plant ecosystems can be quite fragile. Choose a spot further down the mountain and try to scatter the ashes over an area, not just in one small spot.

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.

Above all, if you are hiking to your destination, take care of your own safety. Stick to paths and avoid areas with sudden drops, loose rocks and severe weather conditions.

5. Several different places

There is no rule that you have to scatter your loved one’s ashes all in one place. If you choose, you can scatter portions of the ashes in several different locations. 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 pay their respects in the future.

For more information on cremation and what to do with ashes, read our guide to cremation.