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Scattering Ashes at Sea on a River or a Lake

Scattering ashes at sea, on a river or lake is great way to give a loved one a really nice send-off and research suggests that those who scatter in this way find the presence of water, after that, very comforting.

Scattering Ashes in the SEA - the Law

If you choose the sea then you should aware that:

  • For the UK you do not need a licence to spread ashes in tidal coastal water. In coastal waters you will need to comply with Environment Agency Guidance.
  • For the USA you need to go out three nautical miles and then inform the EPA - Guidance

Scattering Ashes on a RIVER or LAKE

If you choose a river you should be aware that the English Environment Agency say ‘It is acceptable’ with some provisos (download this leaflet – Scattering Ashes on rivers). Basically you need to look out for others and don’t put anything in the river that will not degrade eg plastics.

Where to scatter

You can choose to scatter the ashes from a boat or the shoreline / riverbank. The choice is yours and each has it advantages:

From a boat: if you have access to a boat you can do it yourself .  If not, we can help, we work with a number of boat companies that operate across the UK and Ireland. Here is a map of them - Boats on a Map

Advantages of a boat:  the main advantage is that it is totally private; you can reach more inaccessible places; it is easier to put the ashes into the water; and it is likely to feel more of an occasion.

From the waters edge: on a beach, a bridge or the riverbank– all make good venues, but be mindful of others and tide times, it is best to scatter the ashes below the tide line: tide times

Advantages of a shore line: no additional cost, no restrictions on numbers; you choose your own timings and duration, no chance of seasickness!

Water Urns

If scattering ashes on water, particularly from a boat you may wish consider getting an water urn  - these are containers that hold the ash and biodegrade completely in water. There are two main reasons for doing this:

  • The water is always breezy and the finer ash particles can get caught in the gusts and very often blow back and stick to the side of the boat.
  • There are a range of water urns which fall into two main categories, some float a short while allowing you time for you to reflect and say a few words, while others sink immediately which are good if there is a specific spot you would like the scattering to take place. You can go to our page water urns here. You may also wish to cast rose petals which is a nice touch when scattering over the waves. To pass on final farewells we can provide Promises - notelets made from specialist paper that dissolve in the water allowing you to say those final words.

How to scatter ashes on a BEACH

If you choose a beach the most appropriate option might be Trenching or Beaching. If you pick the correct time and beach, it can be great, we would suggest a sandy beach and spot below the high tide line, carve a groove a shape or symbol in sand such as a heart shape or their initials. A gardening paddle hoe works well for this. Sprinkle the ashes into the trench, cover if you wish and wait until the tide washes the ashes it away.


  • Don’t do it above the high tide line, if you are not sure where this is, look for the line of seaweed and debris near the top of the beach
  • Try to stay away from the beach entry / exit point.
  • Keep the urn fairly low, below waist height
  • Make sure party members are up wind if there is a breeze
  • You can add even more solemnity to it by choosing sunrise or sunset and you are less likely to be disturbed

For more information different ways go to our Methods Page

Keepsakes and Mementos

Some people find scattering the ashes too final and too difficult to deal with, we have a range of ideas on keeping a little of the ashes back and kept in a discreet keepsake, these two are probably the most appropriate: Oil candle  or Glass Wave

Scattering ashes at sea

What type of water urn to use

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