Giza Plateau, Egypt

The Pyramids, Giza Plateau

Ancient Egyptians came up with inventive ways of burying their dead, preserving them for the afterlife. Starting with Mastabas, this method “burial chamber method” quickly changed and evolved to the building of the Pyramids. There are thought to be over 100 pyramids across Egypt, but the most famous are the pyramids on the Giza Plateau. These three pyramids sit next to each other on the edge of the ever encroaching, sprawling city of Cairo, and were built for Pharaohs Khufu, Khafre and Menkaure. They are impressive to say the least and it’s quite overwhelming to stand in front of them and imagine how they were constructed.

Khufu and Khafre’s pyramids
Pyramid of Mycerinus in Giza
Menkaure’s pyramid
Khufu’s pyramid

Roads now wind their way around the plateau leading visitors from the pyramids, to high desert views and back to the funerary buildings and tombs. There are satellite pyramids by some of the main pyramids – these are smaller pyramids dedicated to the wives and other family members of the Pharaohs. There is also a small museum next to one of the pyramids that houses a boat called the Solar Boat that was found in a pit close on the site. It is thought to have belonged to Pharaoh Khufu.

Satellite pyramids
Rock cut tombs

On the Giza plateau  there is also a range of interesting funerary buildings, the Great Sphinx, Sphinx temples and a causeway that leads from the Sphinx to Khafre’s pyramid. The site is also home to three cemeteries; the Great Western, Eastern and Southern Cemetries where skilled workers who built the pyramids were laid to rest and a workers village.

Funerary building
Funerary buildings

Situated at the end of a causeway that leads to Khafre’s pyramid is the Sphinx, a well known monument the Sphinx is mythical depiction with the head of a human and body of a lion. Between it’s feet sit a stele, called the dream step, that is said to record a dream that Tuthmosis IV had about becoming Pharaoh.

The causeway
Pyramid of Chephren and Sphinx
The Sphinx and pyramid

The Giza Plateau is fascinating, as it shows how Egyptian life worked thousands of years ago. How workers were looked after, both in life and death, and how important it was to pharaohs to show that in death they would be remembered for ever. Thousands of years later, tourists still visit the plateau and gaze in awe at the pyramids, taking in the surroundings. I feel privileged to have visited them and I was shocked at the sheer size of them, it’s something you can’t really understand until you see them for yourself.

Wind Across the Nile 


The book description:

Can she survive where her ancestors failed?

Suffering with grief after the tragic death of her family, Cora Thomas flees to Egypt, desperate to escape the overwhelming loss.

In Luxor, she meets gruff Egyptologist Nick Foster who wants little to do with her, and his employee Sam, who instantly becomes a much sought-after friend.

As she settles into life along the Nile, discovering the country’s vast history and culture, Cora learns about the contents of an old diary discovered in her parents’ home. As the diary’s story unfolds, it reveals hardship, love, tragedy and a potentially life-threatening family feud spanning generations.

From the rolling hills of the Scottish Highlands to the ruinous sands of the Egyptian desert, Wind across the Nile is a story of unbreakable family bonds, adversity and self-preservation.

Wind Across the Nile is available on ebook and paperback.


Chrissie is an author who loves history and enjoys travelling and days out exploring.

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Canonsleigh Abbey, Devon

Abbey ruins – accessible via public footpath

Situated on the edge of the idyllic Grand Western Canal in Devon, between Fossend and Fenacre bridges are the ruins of Canonsleigh Abbey (sometimes also called Canonsleigh Priory). There isn’t much left of the original site but the ruins that remain, provide a small glimpse into the importance of the Abbey and its purpose in Medieval times. The remains are now a combination of Grade two listed and scheduled monuments, protected by Historic England, meaning that they cannot be changed or destroyed.

Abbey ruins – accessible via public footpath
The Abbey Gatehouse – now private property

An Abbey/Priory has been in existence on the site for almost a thousand years, but the exact date of its original creation is uncertain. The closest determination is that some time around 1161 and 1173 a Royal confirmation for a Priory on the site was granted. It is thought however, that a Priory may well have been in operation before that date. In 1086 Walter I de Claville, a Frenchman from de Clavile in Rouen, France was gifted the land in the area of “Leigh” by William the Conqeror after his success at the Battle of Hastings. The landowner at the time had been a female Saxon called Aelfrun, a fact documented in the Domesday book in 1086.

Upper part of the Abbey


Hole (likely a window) in the side of the Abbey wall

The Priory at Leigh became known as Canonsleigh. It was a small Priory of Augustinian Canons/Priests, with just twelve in the order to start with, and was dedicated to St John the Evangelist and the Virgin Mary. It operated as most Priory’s did in those days, with the Canons/Priests having ties to neighbouring villages such as Sampford Arundel, Netherton and Pugham. There were areas for prayer, gardens and kitchens. The Priory was subsidised by the Plympton Augustinian Priory, sadly however this had an impact on the Priory, and the it eventually found itself in financial difficulties. Isabella de Fortibus and the Countess of Gloucester (a dowager called Matilda, who wanted a memorial for her late husband), set about a chain of events that would see the Priory given over to them and turned into a nunnery. In 1284, after nine days of negotiations, the Canons were forced from the site by Bishop Quivel and men armed with bows and arrows. Canonsleigh Priory then became known as Canonsleigh Abbey, formally ending the Augustinian order at the site.

The Abbey Gatehouse through trees by Westleigh Quarry

Canonsleigh Abbey was set up for around forty Canonesses, but their life at the Abbey wasn’t easy, and like the Canons/Priests before them they suffered hardship. They drew income from a variety of sources, including their relationship with Burlescombe Village Church, and donations from wealthy landowners, but it wasn’t enough. Money that had been set aside in the Bishop’s treasury by Matilda was borrowed by King Edward I, and it took the Canonesses fifty years of fighting to get it back. Eventually King Edward III (Edward I Grandson), returned the funds.

View of the Abbey remains from private property 
The Reredorter
View of the Abbey remains from private property 

In the 1500’s life at Canonsleigh Abbey became even more difficult. Henry the VIII ordered the dissolution of all Convents, Friaries, Monasteries and Abbeys between 1536 and 1541 in England, Wales and Ireland. This act saw thousands of religious buildings razed to the ground, and income seized from the respective religious chapters. Canonsleigh Abbey didn’t escape, and even though it managed to carry on for a number of years after the Act was created it finally met its demise in September 1539, when the Abbey was razed to the ground and the Canonesses pensioned off.

Roof line view of the Abbey
View of the Abbey remains from private property 
Wood post/beam holes

Nowadays, Canonsleigh Abbey/Priory, is a small cluster of ruinous stone buildings that are slowing being claimed by ivy, trees and bushes. Many don’t know of its existence unless they happen to know someone who lives in the area. There has been much discussion about what buildings do remain on the now abandoned site. We know that Canonleigh Gatehouse exists, standing away from the other ruins, surrounded by modern builds. Amongst the other ruins, called the eastern ruins of the Abbey, it’s documented that there’s a Leat (millstream/artificial watercourse), a Reredorter (possible waste channel from privies and kitchens) and a maybe even a mill, as well as walls, partial buttresses, and a ‘room’. Thoughts are that one of these sites may actually be a kitchen area; likely in the Gatehouse.

The Leat (looking at where water enters from a natural stream)
The Leat
The Leat 

Evidence suggests that the site was much larger when in use, and housed St Theobalds Church, a chapel of Holy Trinity (now two cottages in Westleigh), Ancient chapel ruins (unnamed) at Fenacre farm, and two chapels dedicated to St Thomas the Martyr and All Saints (site location unknown). When the Lime Kilns at Cracker Corner by Westleigh quarry, were built, an ancient burial site was uncovered which included a lot of ancient bones. Experts believe that the area at Cracker Corner may have been the burial ground of St Theobalds Church.

Cracker Corner – potential site of ancient burial ground
Fenacre Farm – potential site of Chapel ruins

The size of the original site of Canonsleigh Abbey will never truly be known, as fields have been given over to farming, roads run next to – possibly even through – the site, and quarry workings at Westleigh have encroached upon it. But what remains is a small reminder of an incredible Medieval past, dating all the way back to the Domesday book. It is a tantalising glimpse of a history of which so much is still unknown and yet, could possibly still be discovered one day.

Author note: Access to Canonsleigh Abbey is via public footpaths/fields. Some of these fields contain livestock (horses and sheep), so care should be taken, especially with closing gates. Dogs should be kept on leads.  Whilst the Abbey is fascinating, it’s an ancient and ruinous building, sometimes there are stone falls, and climbing the ruins should be avoided. As an ancient/protected monument it should be treated with care. Please also note that part of the Abbey is on private property, and only accessible with landowner permission.

Chrissie is an author who loves history, enjoys travelling and days out exploring.

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As well as travelling abroad I’m a huge history geek. I love reading about it, watching history documentaries and visiting historical places, whether it be old country houses, ancient sites or museums. One of my favourite sites to visit in the UK are castles. I think it stems from when I was a child and we used to go on day trips, many of which ended up being castles. Since then I’ve always loved them and really enjoy visiting visiting them and having a good explore. I’ve visited so many castles over the years, but in this post I’m going to write about three of my favourite castles.

Bodiam Castle

In deepest Sussex is Bodiam Castle. It’s owned by the National Trust and is a good example of a 14th century castle with existing moat. It was built in 1385 by a former Knight of Edward III. Despite some of the interior being in ruins, it’s a great example of a medieval castle, and is protected as a scheduled monument with Grade I listed status. The castle sits in the middle of a large moat, connected to land via a long wooden bride, that leads to a drawbridge section. At the end is the main entrance which has a large portcullis, and various ancient defensive mechanisms.

Bodium Castle from across the moat
Interior of Bodium Castle

Originally the castle had two entrances, but only one is used now. The castle is square in shape, with four towers, one at each corner, that visitors can climb via winding staircases to reach the tower roof. The views are extensive and you can see why the castle was built in the location it’s in. The castle has thick, defensive stone walls, a large open courtyard at the centre, with multiple rooms that run around the edge. These rooms include the Great Chamber, old kitchens, Lords Hall, ante rooms, service rooms, stables and even a chapel.

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Inside the Castle
Interior of Bodium Castle
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In the entrance gatehouse

Bodium Castle is one of the best examples of this type of castle I’ve ever visited. As you wander the grounds, the old rooms and climb the towers, you get a real feel for the castle and its incredible history. It’s definitely a castle I’d recommend visiting.

Richborough Castle

Situated near Sandwich in Kent, Richborough Castle is actually an old Roman/Saxon fort, reputed to be built on the site of the first Roman landing in AD43. It is owned by English Heritage, and forms almost a perfect square on the site. It has been through many additions, and much rebuilding. A lot of what now exists are later adaptations, but the site itself is historically noted.

Richborough Castle’s internal structures and exterior walls
Richborough castle’s exterior walls

Many of the internal structures are no longer in existence, due a fair bit of it being built of timber, although some stone foundations do still exist.  The outer walls however still stand, and are quite imposing. There are also many other interesting Roman features inside the site that are worth visiting, such as the Mansio. The site was an important defensive and supply base, so the Mansio was an important part of the fort. There are also remnants of an old hypocaust system and a ditch and rampart system.

Being silly in the Mansio
Remnants of an old hypocaust system
Me with external wall in background

As Roman forts go, Richborough Castle is pretty impressive even though it doesn’t look much from the outside and it’s incredible that as much of it has survived, especially considering the building materials used. When you stand next to one of the outer walls it’s a real shock to see just how tall they are and how massive the site would have been when first built and in use. There is also the remains of an old amphitheatre nearby, it’s quite difficult to locate, but worth a visit if you can find it. A good map is recommend though!

Rochester Castle

In the town of Rochester in Kent, stands the imposing Rochester Castle. It guards the medway river and has an interesting history. Owned by English Heritage Rochester Castle was built in 1127 by the Archbishop of Canterbury, but it is thought that there has been a defensive structure on the site since about 1086, although exactly where is still up for discussion.

The main Keep and canon
Rochester Castle interior

The current castle is a Norman Keep that stands over 100 feet high with a protective forebuilding. The castle like so many, has seen plenty of attacks through time, and been party to many wars. So much so that it has been damaged and rebuilt a few times. Despite all it has been through, the castle continues to stand dominant on the skyline a testament to its efforts of protecting the surrounding area.

Climbing castle steps
Up on the parapets
Inside the castle

What remains nowadays is a great example of a Norman Keep castle. The interior has lost its wooden floor levels, but it is still possible to climb the original stone circular staircases that go all the way to the top, and walk around the parapet to not only look down inside the building, but also out across the town of Rochester, over the Medway and beyond.

Even though I have only listed three favourite castles, there are many others in the UK that I love, and I’ll never say no to visiting one. Others I would recommend visiting are Caerphilly Castle, Chepstow Castle and Dunster Castle. But if you don’t live near any of those, there are plenty of castles all over the UK just waiting to be visited so they can share their incredible history. Find out more on the interactive map of UK Castles.

  • Have you ever visited any of the castles mentioned above?

Chrissie is an author who loves history and enjoys travelling and days out exploring.


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The beautiful capital of France

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Me looking out across the river Seine

Everyone says that you should try and visit Paris at least once in your life. A city full of famous sights, history, culture and romance, Paris is a place that I’ve been lucky to visit more than once and a city that I have fond memories of.

My first trip to Paris was with the school. At the age of fifteen a coach full of my friends and I, accompanied by our teachers, made the trip across the channel and spent a few days in the city visiting some well known sights such as Notre Dame, The Centre Pompidou and The Eiffel Tower.

View from the Eiffel Tower on our school visit
Notre Dame Cathedral on our school visit
Gargoyles on Notre Dame Cathedral on our school visit

It was my first trip abroad and it was exciting to be away from home with my friends. Paris was an interesting place, we got to see some amazing things and try out our French language skills in preparation for our GCSE exams. We scaled the heights of the Eiffel Tower, to take in the views, before walking back down (not for the faint hearted especially if you don’t like heights!). We explored Parisian cafés and shops, and visited The Louvre to view the famous Mona Lisa. The most interesting part of the trip however, was getting stuck in a lift, and being rescued by firefighters. It wasn’t something I enjoyed that much and I’ve been petrified of lifts and getting stuck in them ever since!

The Seine

My next visit to Paris were day trips for various events, and I never got to see much of the city but still enjoyed being there, it’s a relaxing place to visit and work. It wasn’t until December 1999 when I returned again, this time for a longer stay that included Christmas and New Year. My home for the next three weeks was in the area of Pigalle, just round the corner from the Moulin Rouge and I grew to absolutely love this part of Paris.

The Moulin Rouge at night

I would pop out in the mornings to buy bread, croissants and other supplies. I explored the streets that wound up to the Sacre Ceour and the artists quarter, and discovered some lovely shops and cafés. Jumping on the metro I went further afield to Lafayette and other neighbouring stores to see the beautiful Christmas window displays, marvelling at the huge tree in Galeries Lafayette, before going up to the roof to view the expansive skyline of Paris; a view I highly recommend.

View across Paris towards the Eiffel tower
Galeries Lafayette at Christmas
View across Paris to Notre Dame Cathedral

Christmas Day was celebrated by eating ham, egg and chips in a local Parisian café, and New Year’s Eve was celebrated on the steps of the Sacre Ceour, looking down upon the lights of the city, as the millennium arrived in a flurry of amazing fireworks.

Other trips during my stay were to the Champs Elyse, Arc de Triomphe and Notre Dame. My favourite trip out was on New Year’s day, catching the metro to Trocadero and walking over the River Seine towards the Eiffel Tower taking in the New Year date 2000, before walking along the river towards Notre Dame. It’s a lovely walk and you get to see so much of the city from the bank of the river.

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The Eiffel Tower, 01 January 2000
The Sacre Ceour

I love Paris, there’s so much to see and experience, and I discovered that one of the best things you can do in the city is just to walk the streets, enjoy your surroundings and take everything in. There is always something interesting to see, or new to discover. Sadly I haven’t been for a while, but I do hope that I’ll get the chance to go back again very soon, it’s a city that still has so much to offer, even if you have been there many times before.

  • Have you been to Paris? If so which was your favourite part?

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Chrissie is an author who loves history and enjoys travelling and days out exploring.

Petra, the rose red city

Whilst visiting Eilat, in Israel (separate post about Eilat coming soon!) we border hopped into Jordan to visit the ancient city of Petra. It was a very early start and the coach trip up the Kings Highway took a few hours, but it was a trip that would prove to be worth it. Jordan is a great country, an expanse of dusty red/brown desert that rises and falls stretching on for endless miles. Mountains line the roadside, only punctuated by the occasional site of a Bedouin tent and its occupants.

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Close to the entrance of Petra National Park

Arriving in Wadi Musa, the small town where Petra is located, we joined our guide and followed him as we walked through the gates into Petra National Park. Nothing can prepare you for what you see as a visitor, neither can you truly describe to others how incredible Petra is. At first it doesn’t seem like much as you walk a dusty, open path with not much on either side, save for rocky inclines. After ten minutes or so however, you happen upon the Triclinium tomb and some Djinn blocks – ancient structures built by the original inhabitants the Nabataeans 2000 years previously – the first sign of what is to come. They are impressive, but you wonder if it was really worth the visit, but the trip doesn’t end there.


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Inside the gorge walking down to the main part of the city

The path continues steadily on, and suddenly it plunges down through a crack in a rock, between two large edifices of pink stone, once sliced open by an earthquake. Along this path you begin to catch remnants of ancient reliefs, carvings, cobbled flooring and an ancient water irrigation system, as you marvel at the incredible gorge that nature created.

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Catching site of “El Khasneh” at the end of the gorge
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“El Khasneh” (The Treasury)

Suddenly, without warning, the path ends and that’s when your visit to Petra really begins. At the end of this gorge stands the impressive El Khasneh (The Treasury), an ancient temple built by the Nabataeans. Turning to your right you suddenly discover that it’s just the first of many ancient sights, as your vision fills with the remnants of ancient tombs, temples and rock-cut houses.

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Some of the Royal Tombs
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Some of the Royal Tombs
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The Colonnaded street and other ruins
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The Roman Amphitheatre
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Rock-cut tombs/dwellings

Seeing and experiencing Petra was something I’ll never forget. Petra is a huge ancient city, albeit in a semi-ruinous state, that had belonged to the caravan people who had worked the old spice road, around 2000 years ago. Many of its buildings were carved directly into the rock face which meant they haven’t been destroyed by earthquakes, and are still visible. Sadly not all of the city survived though and the central part is fairly ruinous. Despite that, it’s an incredible place to explore, and just when you think you have finished seeing everything, you find another sight to marvel at. There are the Royal Tombs, Colonnaded Streets, a Roman Amphitheatre and The Monastery, the list is endless and there is so much to see and experience. The rich colourful rock, giving Petra it’s nickname of the Rose Red City, is so vibrant in places and marbled in texture, mixed through with hues of white and grey. You really do get a fascinating insight into the people who built the city and used to live there. No vehicles are allowed into the ancient city, and so most visitors make the trip down on foot, but there are horses, camels and horse drawn carriages for those who need transport.

Me inside El Khasneh, a little overwhelmed by it all!

I love Petra, it’s in my top three of favourite places visited and I hope to be able to go again one day. Today the site is well looked after and protected, and sits on the UNESCO World Heritage Site list. It’s a place that many don’t know exists, a hidden historical gem in the Jordanian desert, and one that is definitely worth visiting and will welcome visitors with open arms.

  • Have you ever been to Petra? If so what did you like the most about it?

Chrissie is an author who loves history and enjoys travelling and days out exploring.

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