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Burial ServicesBurial Services

Orkney Islands Council, through the requirements of the Burial and Cremation (Scotland) Act 2016, is responsible for the overall management of council owned burial grounds.  The Council provides its burials service to the public and to undertakers through the council’s registrars, administered locally by burial clerks in some areas. The physical assets are currently managed by the Neighbourhood Services and Infrastructure directorate.

Details of overall management and policy for Orkney’s burial grounds as well as customer rights and information can be found in the Code of PracticeBurial Ground Management Plan and Customer Charter, which can be downloaded from the 'Related Downloads' section of this page.


The erection of a memorial shall only be permitted on purchased lairs, and lair owners must request permission from the Council via approved memorial masons. No artefacts, painting or other erection work of any kind will be permitted.

Memorials should be constructed and installed in accordance with BS 8415:2018. Those undertaking the work should be suitably trained, qualified and certified to the COSVR 194 SQA Unit HA1J-04 Fix and Secure Memorial Masonry Award or equivalent. In addition, they should have appropriate public liability insurance.

As of April 2022, a permit is required to be paid and approved by the Council to erect new memorials. These will be filled out by the customer and stonemason jointly and submitted to the Council. The ‘Application for Memorial Permit’ form (and an example filled out form) can be downloaded from the 'Related Downloads' section at the bottom of this page. The permit can be paid for online via MyOrkney or over the phone with Customer Services.

A permit and the qualifications specified above are also required to carry out repairs to memorials but there is no charge payable for this.

The companies currently on the Council’s approved memorial masons list are:

  • John G. Corse Funeral Directors Ltd (for new memorials)
  • Casey Construction Ltd (for repairing existing memorials).
  • Andrew Sinclair Ltd (for repairing existing memorials)

If you have the appropriate qualifications and public liability insurance please contact the Council if you would like to be added to the approved stonemasons list.

Memorial Inspection Programme

The Council has recently embarked on a review of its inspection and monitoring processes regarding the safety of memorials in Orkney cemeteries. As a result, new procedures are now in place, ensuring that memorials are regularly inspected, and any defects identified as part of a rolling inspection programme. Any memorials with identified as medium risk (structural defects or over 1.5m) will be inspected every 2 years as a minimum, while all memorial will be inspected at least once every 5 years as recommended in national guidance.

If a stone deemed a high hazard is identified during inspections, the stone will be made safe in the first instance (e.g. by staking them) and an attempt will be made to contact the family. If a stone with the potential to become dangerous is identified it will be marked as shown in this photograph, with a small sign informing of the need to contact the council. It is worth noting at this point that the owner of the memorial is responsible for its general condition. The council will only intervene and take action where routine inspection shows that a danger is posed by the condition of a memorial, and it is still the responsibility of the owner to pay for remediation once the hazard is identified.

The last full (5-yearly) inspections were carried on in 2022. In total, 21430 memorials were inspected. Of these, 54 were considered dangerous and marked in the field, 4713 were flagged for re-inspection within 2 years and 16663 are considered safe and will be reinspected within a 5-year rolling programme. The dangerous memorials have now either been repaired at the cost of family, had temporary repairs effected or been made safe.

2-yearly inspections at all of Orkney’s cemeteries will be carried out twice between 2022-2027 with the full inspections being carried out again in 2027.

The Council encourages the public to check their relatives’ memorials to see if they’ve been identified as high risk to discuss options for repairing them.


Shown below are the council charges associated with burial services for the financial year 2024/25. These may be subject to change from April 2025.

  • Excavation of grave - £746.00 (per excavation)
  • Excavation of grave for casket - £216.00 (per excavation)
  • Sale of lairs where double depth interment is possible - £865.00 (per lair)
  • Sale of lairs where only single depth interment is possible - £587.00 (per lair)
  • Excavation of a grave for an infant / juvenile - £0.00 (no charge)
  • Permit to erect a memorial on a lair in OIC managed burial ground - £59.00 (per permit)


For queries about the management of burial grounds call 01856 873535 and ask for the Burial Grounds Officer or contact the Burial Grounds Officer by email.

For enquiries about the purchase of a lair contact the relevant Burial Clerk (found on the Burial Grounds Map) or call the Kirkwall Registration Office on 01856 886333  Most areas of Orkney are now administered centrally from the Council offices with a number of exceptions.

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