Fife Council is responsible for 115 cemeteries and churchyards in Fife. Regular maintenance is carried out in them all and there are 62 cemeteries where interments (burials) still take place regularly.
Fife Council carries out grass cutting over the growing season, usually March to October, and also weed control as required. Sometimes the weather and workload for burials can unfortunately affect our ability to keep to the programme but we will always try to catch up. However, if you have any particular concerns, please contact us to discuss further.
For a full list of cemeteries click here.
Burial for different groups
A designated area within Dunfermline Cemetery is available for use by those who follow the Muslim faith. The graves have been laid out in order that the deceased, once buried, will face Mecca. After the burial, the grave is mounded for an agreed length of time before being levelled. Each grave receives one interment, which takes place (where possible) within 24 hours of the death. Some cemeteries also have areas designated for differing cultures and faiths including Roman Catholic, Coptic Church, Polish. Enquiries can be made through your funeral director on these.
Following the funeral, floral tributes will be arranged on the grave and left in place for at least three weeks. The council will then arrange for their uplift. If families wish to keep the condolence cards on floral tributes they should arrange for their collection within this three-week period.
Where special designs have been used (such as Gates of Heaven, Mum, Dad) and you wish to retain the frames, you should also ensure that they are removed from the grave within the three-week period following the burial.
If you intend to put any specially designed tributes back on the grave following the uplift of the remaining tributes, please ensure that they are positioned within the headstone area of the grave and are not encroaching onto the grass. This allows us to fully reinstate the grave and maintain the grass after the burial.
Replaced tributes should only be left at the grave until a headstone is erected or for a period of three months, whichever comes first. While we understand the distress the loss of a loved one and particularly a child causes, we strongly advise against the placement of mementos at graves. There is the possibility of theft and in time these items can become weathered and damaged. Wreathes and tributes placed in commemoration at Christmastime will be lifted at the end of January. Please ensure that any tributes that you wish to keep are lifted before then.
Following the burial there will be a period where settlement of the grave will occur. This can be due to many factors, such as settlement of the soil and weather conditions. We will repair any sunken lairs as soon as we become aware of it. If however, you have a grave that has not been attended to then please let us know so that we can reinstate it for you. Lairs will continue to settle years after a burial and the council will continue to carry out these repairs.
This can sometimes cause confusion and look like a burial has taken place in the grave. We do not open a grave for burial without the permission of the lair holder. However, we will not seek your permission to carry out reinstatement work, which could involve the turf being lifted from the grave, soil added to the grave and the area re-turfed. When the weather is particularly dry, the lair may be covered with a board initially, although it will have been back-filled. This is because turf will not survive if laid in dry conditions We always try to keep the period a board is in place to an absolute minimum.
Future use of graves
If there is an adjacent lair, it will become necessary at some point in the future for that grave to be opened. This will involve the placing of a soil containment box and walkboards on the lair in which you have the ‘Right of Burial’ for a short period of time. While we try to keep the length of time that this equipment is on grave to a minimum, please be aware that it is an essential part of opening a grave and is necessary without exception.
There are occasions where floral tributes and plants at headstones can unfortunately be damaged by rabbits or turf and headstone areas disturbed by molehills. We try to deal with signs of burrowing and make areas as secure as possible but in some cases, particularly rural cemeteries, these have to be accepted as an unavoidable part of the location.Back To Top
The term 'buying a grave space' is often used and can be misunderstood as you do not actually own the land itself. What is actually being purchased is the 'Grant of Exclusive Right of Burial' in a grave space for a term of 50 years. The ownership of the cemetery land remains with Fife Council.
As a registered owner of the Grant of Exclusive Right of Burial, you have the automatic right to be buried in the grave. You may also allow others to be buried in the grave (space permitting).
Where a new grave, or lair as it may also be called, has been purchased, the person applying for the burial will receive a ‘Registry Certificate’. This is proof of their entitlement to be buried in that particular lair and should be kept somewhere safe.
Each time a grave needs to be opened for a subsequent burial this document should be presented along with the application. If you are using a funeral director who assists with the arrangements they will advise on this and can help complete the application to submit to the council on the family’s behalf.
When the person named on the title deed dies, the lair will then pass to their successor. The successor will be their surviving husband or wife, or eldest child, unless they have left specific instructions in a will.
In order to keep our records up to date, it is important that the council carries out any transfers of title deeds to the designated persons. A small fee may be payable. You will be asked to prove right of burial in a lair for subsequent burials.
When a grave is opened for the first time, the grave should allow for the burial of three full size coffins over a period of time. This is providing the required depth can be achieved which cannot always be guaranteed. It will be dependent on a number of things including the type of ground and adverse weather. If the required depth cannot be achieved you will be informed as soon as possible. If this is the case, you can make appropriate decisions on how you may wish to proceed.
How to apply
Not all cemeteries have lairs available to pre-purchase. Therefore, please email Bereavement.Services@fife.gov.uk with your query and we will respond as soon as we can.Back To Top
Civil funerals are increasingly common. They are simply more appropriate for those who neither lived according to religious principles, nor accepted religious views of life or death.
A civil or humanist funeral recognises no god or 'afterlife', but instead uniquely and affectionately celebrates the life of the person who has died. It is a personal and dignified tribute created by a professional celebrant who works closely with the family or executor and funeral director.
A funeral celebrant is a person who can help plan, write and lead a funeral service. People from all walks of life choose to become a celebrant but all are motivated by a strong desire to help families give the person who has died a good send-off; one that honours, gives thanks for, and even, celebrates a life.
Some celebrants are introduced to families by a funeral director, others are approached directly. Either way, all will work closely with the family and the funeral director to ensure everything goes to plan.
The celebrant will aim to create a highly personal ceremony with the help of family or friends - recounting the person's experiences, attributes and qualities using music, poetry, readings and personal anecdotes. A civil funeral may be held anywhere except religious buildings and churches.
The ceremony is appropriate for burial or cremation in a non-religious burial ground.
British Humanist Association
The British Humanist Association is the national charity supporting and representing people who seek to live good lives without religious or superstitious beliefs. It campaigns for an open society, a secular state and for a world without religious privilege or discrimination. Humanists are atheists and agnostics who make sense of the world using reason, experience and shared human values. They take responsibility for their actions and base their ethics on the goals of human welfare, happiness and fulfillment.
See the British Humanist Association website (takes you to an external site) for more information on civil or humanist funerals.
There is no written rule that says that you have to use a funeral director. However, at such a difficult time and when there is such a lot to organise and consider, special consideration should be given to this option. They will know many of the procedures that need to be followed and the order in which they need to be be done.
The funeral director organises the funeral by collecting and moving the body, arranging embalming (if required) and viewing of the deceased. They ensure that statutory certificates and other information is relayed to the cemetery or crematorium office and provide a coffin and hearse. They also liaise with the cemetery or crematorium office about the service in the chapel or at the graveside. Carrying out these services relieves the bereaved from doing what they may feel are unpleasant and difficult tasks at a difficult time.
However, some people do not wish to use a funeral director for a variety of reasons. They may feel that passing the body of a loved one over to strangers is wrong. Some feel that personally organising the funeral is their final tribute to the deceased person. Others may simply wish to save money by doing everything themselves.
When someone dies, a medical Certificate of Cause of Death will be issued and must be taken to the Registrar of Births, Deaths and Marriages before any funeral arrangements are made. A burial or cremation cannot go ahead until you have registered the death.
If you wish to make the funeral arrangements rather than use a funeral director, please contact us on the details below for advice on what paperwork is required for the burial or cremation.Back To Top
Due to the settlement that occurs during the first few weeks, we do not allow headstones to be erected in the first 12 weeks after a burial. This is to ensure that the headstone foundation will remain secure and not become unstable. The exceptions to this are where cremated remains have been buried or where there is already a concrete plinth in place for fixing memorials to.
Any headstone erected is the responsibility of the lair holder and the maintenance and safety of the headstone lies with that person or their successor.
Permission to erect a headstone on a lair is required, and the headstone will be monitored for stability and safety on a regular basis. An application form must be completed and be signed by the person named on the Registry Certificate or their rightful successor. The application form to erect a memorial can be printed off from the publications section and posted to the address at the bottom of this page.
Alternatively, you can obtain an application form from a memorial mason. The monumental sculptor you choose should also be able to assist with completing the form. Once submitted to Fife Council, we will check the information is correct and arrange for a concrete foundation to be installed to nationally recognised standards for headstones. A permit will be issued to the memorial mason once the foundation is ready for the headstone to be erected on.
There is a fee for permission to erect a headstone and for the installation of the foundation.
As there is a risk of vandalism or other damage due to wear and tear, we recommend having the headstone insured.
The headstone will be examined to ensure that it is in a safe condition. Should repairs be required the lair holder or representative must carry these out. If they fail to do so, the council reserve the right to remove the headstone under health and safety legislation.
We prefer that you do not erect enclosing fences or verges. Fences around the full length of the grave are not allowed under any circumstances. Fences and verges around headstones or graves can cause many problems for maintenance and need to be removed when adjacent graves or the main grave need to be opened.
For health and safety reasons, fences with points or spikes are not allowed and we can remove them after giving you notice. If you'd like to have a fence or verge, please make sure you get permission from us first.
If you wish to plant something in the headstone border, please remember that even dwarf conifers become large over time. Anything planted should be suitable for the site and should not encroach onto neighbouring graves. Conifers, trees and most shrubs are not suitable and in time their roots will find their way into the grave and under the headstone. Alpines, heathers and bedding plants are considered the most appropriate.
If you are considering placing ornaments at the headstone, these should be kept to a minimum. Cemeteries are open to the general public at all times and while we try our best to ensure they are secure places, items can be stolen or damaged.
The placing of solar lights, lanterns or similar is not felt to be suitable by many visitors to our cemeteries and can be susceptible to damage or theft. You may wish to consider creating a commemorative area within your own garden where ornaments and lights are not subject to the same problems as within in a cemetery.
Please do not enlarge the designated headstone border. This causes significant operational problems when graves are required to be opened and interferes with general maintenance. Please remember the land remains the property of Fife Council at all times.Back To Top
Where there is a sizeable number of memorabilia items, it can make it difficult for staff to operate and maintain the cemetery. These items may also intrude onto other adjoining graves, making it difficult to care and maintain them. We understand that some families will find removing items difficult, but our staff are always on hand to offer help and advice. Any work that we may carry out will always be done as sympathetically as possible.
The following type of memorabilia is permitted in front of a headstone:
- Enclosed fences / kerbs that do not exceed eight inches from the front of the base of the headstone.
- Items placed within this specified area (within 8 inches from the front of the base of the headstone) comply with regulations.
Items of memorabilia that are displayed outside the specified area such as large items and fences or kerbs that are deemed to be unauthorised will not be removed without first contacting the grave owners or family members.
We urge anyone who wishes to put up larger commemorative items (such as solar lights or fences) to contact us to seek guidance first.
These rules refer to the newer graves in our cemeteries where there is a headstone but no kerbing. The rules on memorials don’t apply to ‘traditional’ graves which include kerbs that are an integral part of the headstone and run the full length of the grave. These are most often found in older parts of our cemeteries.
Click here to download the full Management Rules for Regulation of Burial Grounds and Crematoria.Back To Top
Click here to download our full Management Rules for Regulation of Burial Grounds & Crematoria.Back To Top
Commonwealth War Graves Commission home page - https://www.cwgc.org/
Fife Cemeteries List - www.cwgc.org/find/find-cemeteries-and-memorials/resultsBack To Top
Exhumations are very rarely carried out and require a sheriff’s warrant. Where exhumation is requested by a family purely to transfer the location of the deceased, this decision should be given careful consideration as the exhumation process can be a very intrusive process.
The family requesting the exhumation are required to submit a 'Plea-in-Law' through a solicitor to the sheriff. Permission to apply for the warrant to disinter must be given by the person recorded as the Lair Holder and by any close surviving relatives of the deceased.
A 'Certificate of Feasibility' issued by Fife Council should also accompany the solicitor's application to the sheriff.
The sheriff has to be satisfied that the request is justifiable before a warrant may be granted.
An environmental health officer must be present at the exhumation to ensure that respect for the deceased person is maintained and that public health is protected.
There will be charges made by the solicitor, the court, Fife Council and the funeral director (if involved). Fife Council charges will be based on the circumstances of each particular case.Back To Top