© Emmanuel Berthier
Roscoff The most British of Brittany’s ports
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Roscoff

Built on a peninsula surrounded by the Channel, Roscoff is well worth a detour. This small town of character has attractive, richly decorated houses that once belonged to ship-owners, a church in the flamboyant Gothic style, and much more. Visitors never fail to be charmed by this town, which is both a port and a seaside resort. Offshore is the Isle of Batz, with a mild climate that makes it an ideal place to relax.

The most British of Brittany’s ports

Wealth built on trade

In the 19th century, Roscoff traded in cloth, salt and wood… even onions exported to England. Everything in its historic centre evokes the wealth of maritime trade: from the church hidden away in its garden to the opulent granite dwellings; from the boats sculpted out of stone to the turrets in the old harbour. The spirit of corsairs, smugglers and merchants still seems to hover around the entrances to elaborate cellars that open at street or beach level.

Pushed back by sand and the English

The history of Roscoff begins in the Roskogoz quarter. In the Middle Ages the site was no more than an outer harbour for Saint-Pol-de-Léon. A 15th-century crucifixion statue still shows the site of the village. The silting up of the harbour and repeated attacks by the English made the inhabitants of Roscoff decide to move further north to the site of the present old harbour. This is where the town began to grow, stretching further and further east. The Pointe de Bloscon, near the Chapel of Sainte-Barbe, was fortified in the 18th century.

From commercial ventures to cross-channel ferries

In the early 19th century, the Onion Johnnies’ looked to the Channel for a living. They crossed to England to sell the famous Roscoff pink onions. This link with the UK has remained strong. Thanks to the deep-water harbour built during the second half of the 20th century, there is still a year-round ferry service to the UK and, from April to October, to Ireland as well.

From thalassotherapy to seaweed harvesting

France’s very first thalassotherapy centre was opened in Roscoff in 1899. Dr Bagot treated rheumatism there with sea water. Since then, the success of the centre has never failed. Today, alongside the ‘station biologique’, a marine biology research centre that is famous throughout Europe, seaweed harvesting companies have grown up. The site is now one of the largest seaweed production centres in Finistère.

France’s very first thalassotherapy centre was opened in Roscoff in 1899

Did you know ?

An extraordinary garden has sprung up around the Roch-Hievec cliff. Around 3,000 sub-tropical plant species flourish here and enjoy the climate of the bay.

Main points of interest

  • The house known as ‘Mary Stuart’ (listed)
  • The old harbour, built of granite in the 17th century
  • The Maison Forte (16th century) and the turret or watchtower (late 16th century)
  • The completely restored church of Notre-Dame-de-Croas-Batz (polychrome decoration), with its ossuaries and enclosure (listed as historic monuments)
  • The group of granite houses built by wealthy ship-owners and merchants in the 16th century (finely sculpted dormer windows, ground-level cellar entrances, elaborately carved gargoyles, etc.)
  • The six dwellings listed as historic monuments
  • The Chapel of Sainte-Barbe (17th century) built on top of a cliff

Guided tours

  • Individual guided tours (summer)
  • Group guided tours (advance booking required)
  • Heritage trail with information panels
  • Special tours for children
  • Tourist land train

Information & bookings

Tourist Office Roscoff, Côte des Sables, Enclos Paroissiaux


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Official website of tourism in Brittany
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