Falling asleep in church has been frowned upon—until now. Thanks to the Churches Conservation Trust, ten of England’s historic churches become hallowed hostels by night. While “champing,” or church camping, guests are given the holy house’s key for a candlelit night by the altar—just skip your Sunday best for a sleeping bag.
“It’s a great way to commune with centuries of history, whilst escaping the push-button trappings of modern life,” says Peter Aiers, Churches Conservation Trust director.
At the imposing, Gothic-style Church of St. Cyriac and St. Julitta in Swaffham Prior, near Cambridge, don’t miss the octagonal bell tower, which features a set of six bells cast in 1791. Or, if the mood strikes, belt out a hymn or two; the acoustics are divine. In the village of Aldwincle in Northamptonshire, All Saints’ Church, where 17th-century poet John Dryden was baptized, has medieval limestone arcades and carved creatures on the facade.
In Swaffham and Aldwincle, guests sleep on the floor using inflatable or foldout beds. However, the All Saints’ in West Stourmouth and the Church of St. Mary the Virgin in Fordwich, both near Kent, boast 18th-century box pews that can be transformed into cosy nooks. Highlights at St. Mary’s also include 14th-century stained glass windows and the Fordwich Stone, a nearly six-foot-long, intricately carved shrine that’s about 900 years old.
Appeared in the May 2016 issue as “Spiritual Slumber Party”.
Bookings can be made online through the Churches Conservation Trust’s champing website (www.champing.co.uk.; £55/₹5,300 approx. per person per night; including breakfast). Group discounts are available and an advance deposit charge of 33 per cent has to be paid. The bookings can be exclusive and the group can have the entire place to themselves.