Glamping has taken over the world with a plethora of luxe options for holidaymakers to choose from, but the latest accommodation type that’s turning heads is “champing”, also known as camping in churches around England.
We know that falling asleep in church usually raises an eyebrow or two during service, but with champing, you are encouraged to spend a night or two on holy ground.
This initiative was championed in 2015 by the Church Conservation Trust to raise money for some of the beautiful, ancient churches they’re helping to protect. Not only does this heavenly initiative open their buildings to the community — it also encourages slow tourism as well. Guests looking for a blessed night’s sleep can book their stay here, during the champing season that runs from the end of March to the end of September.
If you fancy getting out of London to explore some of the beautiful English countrysides in a unique way, we’ve rounded up some of the more notable champing locations for you to slumber in.
All Saints in Aldwincle, Northamptonshire
With origins dating back to the 13th century, the All Saints is a spacious medieval sanctuary that lies at the edge of the quaint village of Aldwincle. The church was constructed in limestone, and the towering arches in the uninhibited space lend a grandeur that cannot be replicated elsewhere. Start your day with a hearty cooked breakfast delivered to your doorstep by Farmer Tim, and begin exploring the town. Activities include canoeing down River Nene and discovering the lush meadows and wetlands or the nearby Nene Way. At night, watch as the moonlight reflects itself against the stained glass windows and projects itself onto the towering limestone arcades.
The Blessed Virgin Mary in Emborough, Somerset
The Blessed Virgin Mary is a striking church that stands out on its own. It is situated on the ridge of Mendipis, ringed by a stretch of grasslands. It features a prominent central tower that is crowned by an elegant parapet with four crocketed pinnacles at the corners. Here, find eighteenth-century fittings and the lovely barrel-shaped nave ceiling with a decorated plaster frieze. The church sleeps up to four guests, and has been lovingly decorated with fairy lights and rustic furnishings for a cosy night in. Those who want to spend the day exploring can head down to the neighbouring towns of Bath and Glastonbury as well.
St Michael the Archangel in Booton, Norfolk
A miniature castle-like structure stands out from the East Anglican landscape of Booton. St Michael the Archangel was originally the creation of clergyman Reverend Whitewall Elwin, a descendant of Pocahontas and a good friend of Charles Darwin. It is hard to pinpoint the styles that make up the fairytale-like parish — its was designed by borrowing details from other churches throughout the country. The beautiful large church can also host up to 16 guests, perfect for larger groups. Those who choose to come are recommended to trek or even horse ride across Marriott’s Way — a lengthy but scenic footpath between Norwich and Aylsham.
St Mary’s Church in Edlesborough, Buckinghamshire
Rather than Ed Sheeran’s ‘Castle on a Hill’, St Mary’s is Edlesborough’s very own ‘Church on a Hill’. The once holy establishment is set on a chalk hillock and designed with 15th century styled architecture. Inside, it features impressive medieval woodwork, awe-inspiring Victorian wall paintings as well a light-stained glass window by English stained glass artist, M. E. Aldrich Rope. Champers can take a short six-minute drive to the UK’s largest zoo, the ZSL Whipsnade Zoo if they are a looking for some sights to enjoy.
St Cyriac & St Julitta in Swaffham Prior, Cambridgeshire
St Cyriac & St Julitta is definitely one of the more contemporary-looking churches on this list. The elegant Georgian aesthetic is fitted with clear glass windows, slim columns and tons of open space. The once 15th-century crumbling ruin was overgrown with ivy and was restored and rebuilt in 1974. Now, the vestry has a splendid interior, a towering octagonal bell tower, and excellent acoustics for guests to visit and have some unadulterated fun. Spend your days traversing the quaint village of Swaffham Prior by barreling through bushes at fruit orchards, visiting the local farmers’ market as well as discovering all the impressive chapels and abbeys in the area.