Roscoff, Finistere: tourism & sightseeing
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Situated on the north-west coast of Brittany, Roscoff is best known for being an arrival point for cross-channel ferries arriving from Plymouth (in south-west England). As a result, many people are unaware of the attractive old town that is just minutes away from them as they immediately set off for their final destination.
But if you allow a little extra time to explore, perhaps before boarding your ferry, Roscoff itself is a pleasure to visit and well worth the detour. The town is listed as a 'Brittany city of character'
The original centre of Roscoff is based around the traditional fishing harbour which is most lively when the markets are in full swing along the waterfront.
After you have walked along the seafront, the historic town centre also has some very pleasant cobbled streets to explore and some interesting and attractive historical buildings to discover, built in the traditional granite stone of the region.
Much of the historical centre of Roscoff dates back to the 16th century and there are many small decorative architectural features to admire as you stroll through the town. Our favourite example was the large dragon above a window on a renaissance style house in the central square!
The most important monument in Roscoff is the 16th century Church of Notre-Dame de Croaz-Batz in the centre of the town, instantly recognisable with its decorative renaissance style belltower that dominates the skyline and includes several interesting features such as two separate rows of bells.
The walls of the church also incorporate various carvings of ships and a large sundial. The highlight inside the church is the large decorative altar, and there is also an ancient ossuary next to the church which is in itself an interesting building.
The small Chapel of Sainte-Barbe is also worth a visit, on a pretty section of headland nearby.
Maisons Marie Stuart
Probably our favourite houses in Roscoff are the group of stone houses near the quai at 19 - 25 Rue Revéillère, dating from the 16th century. It was long said in the town that Marie Stuart, at that time six year old Queen of Scotland, stayed here in 1548 on her way to marry French King Francois II: hence the name Maisons Marie Stuart.
The story rather falls apart when you know the houses were only built around 1560, 12 years after Marie Stuart was here. However in 1548 the small Chapel Saint-Ninien already stood here it has now disappeared apart from a small part in the wall of no. 25, and it is likely it was this chapel that the Queen visited before continuing her journey.
The best way to explore the town is to pickup the leaflet from Roscoff Tourist Office that highlights about 20 notable features - each also has an explanatory plaque when you arrive.
Note: there are also a couple of hotels and various small shops and cafes in the centre of Roscoff.
Another surprise in Roscoff is the Exotic Gardens. These are extensive and most unexpected in northern France with many beautiful plants and flowers here that are more commonly seen in tropical and sub-tropical regions of the world such as South Africa.
We visited in June and there were a very wide range of unusual flowers to be seen. The raised rocky section of the gardens also has nice views across Morlaix Bay, and a visit is a lovely way to pass a couple of hours.
Roscoff is also famous for the onions grown nearby, which have even received the prestigious 'AOC' (appellation d'origine controllée) to prevent other onions claiming to be Roscoff onions. The high quality of the onions is attributed to the combination of ideal soil and weather conditions.
This tradition is celebrated both at the 'Maison des Johnnies' which tells the story of the onion and the people who travelled to England to sell them - the origin of the famous image of French people cycling around selling strings of onions.
There is an annual 'Fete de l'oignon de Roscoff' held in August where you have the chance to sample such treats as the local onion tart.
Roscoff is a departure point for visitors travelling to Ile de Batz, an attractive island just off the coast to the north-west from here.
Map of Roscoff and places nearby
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Address: Roscoff, Saint-Pol-de-Léon, Morlaix, Brittany, 29680, France || GPS: latitude 48.727222, longitude -3.984444
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Sightseeing & tourist attractions to visit nearby
- Jardin exotique: remarkable garden
- Jardin Delasselle: remarkable garden (3 km)
- Cairn de Barnenez: national monument (15 km)
- Saint-Thegonnec: village d'etape (23 km)
- Saint Thégonnec: enclos-paroissial (23 km)
- Bodilis: enclos-paroissial (24 km)
- Lampaul-Guimiliau: enclos-paroissial (26 km)
- Guimiliau: enclos-paroissial (27 km)
- Molène (Côtes-d'Armor): site of natural beauty (28 km)
- Île Milliau: site of natural beauty (29 km)
- Plougonven: enclos-paroissial (30 km)
- La Roche Maurice: enclos-paroissial (33 km)
Market days in Roscoff, France
Regular market(s) are held in Roscoff each Wednesday. (Markets are held in the morning unless stated.)
The French version of this page is at Roscoff (Francais)