A charming port of call Roscoff
Roscoff is a surprise. Beyond its privateering history, this harbour town in the Land of Léon never fails to seduce visitors with its energy and multiple personalities linking the present to the past, the sea to the land, and science to tourism.
As you near Saint-Pol de Léon, there are clues that Roscoff is not far off. There’s a little more traffic – a mixture of cars and tractors, delivery trucks and lorries making their way towards the quayside and the port, as well as British holiday-makers who’ll be crossing with Brittany Ferries that same evening, heading home. In the fields, farmers are gathering their famous Pink Onions of Roscoff. It’s this blend of activities with layer upon layer of different eras that makes the Roscoff we know today.
These days, it’s lovely to simply stroll along the old quayside and watch the buzz of activity from afar. The pavement cafés and the sightseers. People waiting for the next boat to the Île de Batz that’s two kilometres across the water. Close by the port are the famous dwellings where Mary Queen of Scots is said to have stayed. Close your eyes and you can imagine these waters filled with sailing ships. Back in the 16th and 17th centuries, Roscoff locals sailed back and forth to southern Europe, trading in canvas. Business was booming, and shipowners became linen merchants and salt traders. In a short space of time, they amassed considerable fortunes and beautified their town with houses and buildings richly decorated with turrets, spiral staircases, sculpted dormer windows, gargoyles and other adornments. At the end of the landing stage, where you take the boat to the Île de Batz at low tide, you can really appreciate this seafront, encircled by monumental houses and indestructible walls. Several narrow passageways lead from the shore to the town centre, like a hyphen connecting the outside to within, the luminosity of the seascapes to the enclosed shelter of old granite. Along any of these passageways you can make your way to the historic centre.
Follow the Chemin de Roc’higou, and the seafront soon reappears. Here, the beaches of fine sand and the imposing 19th century villas show Roscoff’s role as a seaside resort.
A granite pebble
A few cable’s lengh away from Roscoff (about 15 minutes crossing), Enez Vaz has cast anchor in the Gulf Stream’s wake. This quiet island conceals many treasures, the most remarkable living in the heart of its inhabitants : authenticity.
Series of dunes, white sand beaches, green luxuriance of the Georges Delaselle garden, wild coastlines are as many different viewpoints that uncover as you stroll along.
Looking back over the past
Several buildings and relics are testimony to the ancient settlement of the island, such as these remains of Bronze Age or ruins of Saint Anne’s chapel (to the East) or Saint Pol’s stole (in the village church). More recently the lighthouse, Captain’s houses or the guardroom have shaped the outline of the island…