Spend an entire night climbing bell towers, composing your own sermons from a pulpit, examining historic artifacts up close or virtually anything else you want to get up to in one of England’s most picturesque rural churches. ‘Champing,’ or church camping, is somewhere in between mosquito-bitten nights in the wilderness and luxurious ‘glamping,’ with modest beds placed right in the nave of a centuries-old place of worship so paintings of Jesus can watch your every move.
England’s Churches Conservation Trust, an organization that takes care of 347 churches that are no longer used for regular worship, has opened three of its buildings to the public for overnight stays. You can have St. Mary the Virgin in Kent, All Saints Church in Northamptonshire or St. Cyriac & St. Julitta in Cambridgeshire all to yourself. Once the medieval-looking iron key is in your hand, you’re free to act like you own the place.
The experience is sort of like sleeping in a museum exhibit, getting all the time you want to look at every last detail of stained glass windows, architectural details, organs and sacred objects. St. Mary the Virgin, in England’s smallest and least-populated town, is quaint and provincial, while St. Cyriac’s features ornate Gothic windows. All Saint’s, with its soaring ceilings, can fit groups of up to twelve.
You’ll have to wash up with a jug and bowl, and the Conservation Trust offers to “very creatively turn a vestry into a champing toilet,” but for rates starting at roughly a hundred U.S. dollars per night, you’ll at least get breakfast delivered. Funds go to the continued preservation of these historic structures throughout Britain.