Champing with dogs

Church of All Saints, Langport, Somerset
Imagine waking up to this at the Church of All Saints, Langport, Somerset © The CCT

Picture the scene: you’re relaxing on holiday in the UK with one hand holding a glass of wine and the other stroking your dog. Candles and fairy lights illuminate the space you’re staying in and as you lounge on your bed, you start wondering what will be in the breakfast hamper being delivered to your door the next morning. Maybe there’s some music tinkling softly in the background, maybe there’s silence, but all in all, it’s wonderfully peaceful.

Now, did you picture yourself staying in a church? Because that’s exactly what you can expect when you go champing. Everyone has heard of camping and glamping but this quirky phenomenon – essentially, camping in a church – is really starting to take off. It’s not going to be for everyone, of course, but if you’re travelling on a budget and fancy doing something a bit different, you’ll no doubt love the experience.

All Saints Church in Aldwincle, Northants
All Saints Church in Aldwincle, Northants, is ready for guests © The CCT

The champing concept was first introduced by The Churches Conservation Trust (CCT) in 2015 and since then, thousands of holidaymakers have seized the unique opportunity to enjoy a sleepover with soul. So far, more than 25 churches in England and Wales have opened their doors to overnight guests – and all but one of the buildings on the books welcome up to two dogs (or three small ones) free of charge.

You will have exclusive use of the church during your stay and are provided with fold-out camp beds to sleep on. You can either bring your own bedding or choose to add it as an extra, but chairs, lanterns, candles and kettles are included in the price. Guests will also have access to a toilet but, as you might expect from such ancient buildings that date back to the 10th Century, the facilities can be fairly basic.

Church of St Martin, Colchester, Essex
The beautiful Church of St Martin, Colchester, Essex ©

The main champing season runs from March to October but a handful of churches (and their volunteers, or ‘Church Mice’) welcome guests all year round. The CCT uses all the money raised from champing to preserve the buildings and you’ll find answers to the most commonly asked questions – such as whether you’re allowed to drink alcohol or need to be prepared for a Sunday service – on its wonderfully tongue-in-cheek website.

Overnight rates start from £49.50 per adult and breakfast, where offered, is an additional £12.50. This could be a hamper full of local produce delivered to your door, or a deal with a local pub or cafe. While some churches are suitable for couples, others sleep up to 16 so be sure to have a good look at the website before booking. Gift vouchers are also available. For more information about Champing or to book a break, click here.

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