A little known term that you may very well have never heard uttered previously – the name “champing” is a cute abbreviation of “church camping”. And church camping is, well, camping in churches – perhaps unsurprisingly. But I don’t mean flinging up a 2 man pop up in the cemetery – champing means actually camping inside the church buildings themselves. To be fair if it was up to me I would have said it was really an amalgamation of the term “church glamping”, but I digress.

Champing vs. Glamping

If you know me but at all, you will know I recently developed a taste for glamping! And truth be told I’m pretty excited for the summer to roll back around so I can get my glamp on again – and this time I may even travel further than 30 miles outside of London – but let’s not be too hasty. So, in case you aren’t aware “glamping” is the term for ‘glamorous camping’ – so I supposed you could say champing actually means ‘glamorous church camping’ – now doesn’t that sound novel. And if you’re the kind to ask yourself what would Jesus do – well, I’m pretty sure he would champ – talk about a solid testimonial!

Champing, as it were, is an initiative started by The Churches Conservation Trust in the UK. As far as I’m aware, champing hasn’t made it outside of the British Isles, but I’m sure that’s only a matter of time. With around 20 churches signed up at present, champing seems like it has a good while left before it becomes an over-priced tourist trap. And with truly unique travel experiences so fleeting these days it seems like a perfect way to while away a weekend.


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Who is Champing for?

While there is no request for those who try champing to be Christian, or church-goers in any way – I dare say those with a spiritual nature would probably find this kind of trip very fulfilling. Likewise, people who enjoy the thrill of a good slasher movie setting! While I am more so the latter – I do think this would be a great little getaway. Likewise, anyone with a penchant for architecture would be extremely interested in exploring – and we all know there are not many trips several different generations can agree on.

The Churches Conservation Trust is actually responsible for the caretaking of 350 churches around the UK – so the possibility of many more churches eventually becoming available for champing is highly possible. As it is run entirely by the trust the price to take part is a pretty reasonable set rate (around £50 per adult, £25 per child) – assumably it’s not the kind of thing you’d want to book for more than a night or two – as it might not be the most comfortable set up.

While the exact amenities differ from church to church, you are provided with camp beds, chairs, lanterns, candles, tea and coffee-making facilities and a functioning toilet. So, in this case, you would just need to bring your own bedding. You can, however, add on a sleeping set for £25 for the entirety of your stay.

Most of the churches can hold up to 16 people – so great if you’re wanting to host a special event. Booze is permitted, as is food – but no cooking or open flames – for obvious reasons! Toilet facilities are included on all sites, but not showers – hence why it’s probably more suited to a whimsical weekend rather than a filthy fortnight.

Unique Experiences

If you’re a fan of the Air BnB revolution – I feel like champing only serves to extended everything we know and love about this modern form of booking. Forget soul-less travel lodges and outdated fusty bed and breakfasts.

Interestingly, two of my most favorite travel memories are unique accommodation experience such as staying overnight on Maya Bay (before it closed due to over-tourism) – there was only about 20 of us that slept overnight on the beach, reenacted a whole bunch of great “The Beach” moments, made sand penis, watched the sunrise and drank plenty of Thai whisky, naturally. I also took my mum to Oxford a year or two back to stay overnight at Oxford’s Christchurch college – also known as the college that much of Harry Potter was shot at or based on – so a quirky experience to say the least. Having access to the campus overnight while outside of term time was great as we got to explore the old buildings in a way that other guests simply would never be able to.

And you can even feel good about yourself too. The Churches Conservation Trust runs the champing scheme purely as a way to cover maintenance costs for the 350 churches in their care – so far from living the pockets of some faceless hotel chain, you can be happy in the knowledge that your precious pennies and pounds will be supporting the upkeep of a multitude of historic buildings! Hopefully, that will warm your heart while you shiver on a cold stone floor!

When to Go

While you may be able to arrange to stay in the champing churches year-round the recommended champing season is March – September – for obvious reasons! It feels like taking a number of layers year-round could be a wise move – although in the depths of summer a cold stone floor might be just the ticket!

How to Book

Head on over to the official Champing website to check out what options are available throughout the UK. Currently the closest locations to London are:

St Mary’s in Edlesborough, Buckinghamshire

St James’ in Cooling, Kent

St Katherine’s in Chiselhampton, Oxfordshire