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O holy night: sleepover at All Saints' Church in Aldwincle, England (Photograph by David Joyner)

Spiritual Slumber Party: ‘Champing’ in England

Falling asleep in church has been frowned upon—until now.

Thanks to the Churches Conservation Trust, four of England’s historic churches become hallowed hostels by night. While “champing,” or church camping, guests are given the holy houses’ 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 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, offers 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 boast 18th-century box pews that can be transformed into cozy 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.

This piece, written by Lanee Lee, appeared in the November 2015 issue of National Geographic Traveler magazine.