The church at Roscoff, "Notre Dame de Croas-Batz" primarily of Gothic design, was begun around 1520 and only finished in 1701. A change in design was made in 1576 with the building of the magnificent Rennaissance belfry. Two ossuaries, including one with a double row of balusters are to be found in the close. Also around the walls can be seen several small sculpted motifs showing ships, an indication of the importance of maritime commerce here, and a nice sundial with the words "Craignez la Derniere", surely a reference to the "Grim Reaper and the last hour".
Just at the entrance to the leisure port and parking are two houses known as "The Mary Stuart houses". Mary Stuart landed here in 1548 and the legend goes that the future Queen of France and Scotland stayed in these houses. But the reality is, they were both built at leat 10/20 years after her landing. In fact at that time there only existed the St. Ninians chapel at the head of the landing stage. The chapel was demolished in the 1930's and all that subsists is the "Porte Marie Stuart".
As would be expected from such a scenic location Roscoff has several commercial art galleries with works by local artists for sale. Unfortunately on an out of season Monday none of them were open but the window displays certainly are tempting.
The local style seems to be mainly impressionist but none the worse for that.
Website below will give you a taste.
Having been in the catering trade here in the UK for more years than I care to think about I am very familiar with Brittany produce. The region has richly fertile arable land, relatively short, mild, winters and long, but not overhot, summers. Because it is a peninsula there's always moisture in the air and whilst rainfall isn't particularly generous the general climate makes for ideal growing conditions for most vegetables.
Roscoff's particular claim to fame is its red onions (they even have their own "Appellation Controlee) which it began exporting in the early 1800's following a bumper crop. The early traders would sail across the Channel with boatloads and sell their produce door-to-door, firstly on foot and later by bicycle, with the onion stems woven to form necklaces for ease of carriage. These men became known as the "Onion Johnnies" (Since most of them were called Jean and those that weren't probably called themselves Jean anyway - perhaps for tax reasons ;)).
In the town centre there's a little museum dedicated to these guys and during the summer this is open Sunday to Friday with guided tours available. Unfortunately during the winter (which is the only time I've been) the house is only open on Tuesdays and Fridays and so I haven't had a chance to visit as yet - but watch this page.
Once you get back to the ferry port and have checked-in; if your ferry isn't ready for boarding the L'accostage cafe-bar at the port is quite a pleasant, friendly, place to have a quick beer or two. This has the advantage of opening onto the departures area and so you can enjoy your beer and watch for the boarding commencing.
This is open to the public, as well as ferry passengers, and is quite popular with the local workers from the docks and the adjacent industrial estate.
Obviously as well as beer you can get a full range of beverages, alcoholic and otherwise, and the food menu looks quite good too and is reasonably-priced.
PS It's also useful if waiting for the bus as the bus stop is just out front.
Chez Janie is the bar and restaurant of the Hotel du Centre here in the centre of town (strange but true!).
This is a friendly little bar and the terrace overlooks the harbour which makes it an ideal spot to relax with your pre-lunch aperatif. There's a good selection of local draught beers and cider (I think it was 4 + 1) and whilst its not the cheapest bar in town (at 2.70 for a demi "Lancelot Blonde") its not the most expensive either.
The food menu looks as if it's more restaurant-style than cafe but the plats du jour looked good value.
Bar ty Pierre (or Cafe depending on which bit of signage you read!) is as pleasant a spot as any to linger with your morning coffee. Service is pleasant, swift and friendly, and at 1.30 Euro the coffee is perfectly reasonably priced.
The terrace is ideal for watching the world go by and out of season is very much a locals haunt.
The cafe-type menu looks good too if you fancy a snack or lunch.
Personally I tend to just meander and see where I end up, depending on the time I've got available. However if you want to take a circular walk there are freebie leaflets available from the Tourist Office with maps, descriptions and timings.
These routes are signposted at their junctions and so it should be impossible to get lost.
Roscoff's main church is the 16th/17th century Eglise de Notre-Dame de Croaz Batz (Our Lady of Cross Batz) situated in the town centre. Its distinctive twin bell towers can be seen from miles around and up closer you'll notice the secular stonework carvings commemorating the fact that it was built by local merchants and shipowners.
This is very much a working church but inside is as interesting as the exterior by all accounts and the Louis XIII main altar is particularly magnificent.
For a virtual visit the website below has useful info and great pics.
If you want the best view overlooking Roscoff there is a hill between the old port and the ferry port. It is not immediately obvious from ground level and (I don't think) signposted. I merely stumbled accross it (after a 2&1/2 hour lunch stumbling is probably the most appropriate description!), having decided to walk out of town along the seafront in the opposite direction from my morning walk.
There it was, this little hill, with a little windey path leading from a dusty little carpark - with no cars in it (little or otherwise) and a little white church (Chapelle St Barbe) on the top.
The hill is probably not even 200 metres high but the view over the town, the old port and the bays on both sides is superb. It has one of these coin-fed binocular things, but the panorama doesn't really require using it.
If asked -Which vegetable do you use more of than any other? the first to come to mind would be Onions. So versatile, so good for you, so flavoursome -- just so useful in so many dishes.
Since I was a child the sight of Breton onion sellers, with strings of onions hanging from their bicycles was a familiar sight in winter months. I never even wondered why they came to England and Wales to sell onions.
Only quite recently have I discovered why I can buy onions from Roscoff from a French man in Abergavenny Market - as I did a few days ago.
The particular variety of onion grown in the Roscoff area was introduced by Portuguese travelling monks in the 18thC. They grew well in the fertile soil of north Brittany and liked the climate. As well as for domestic use there was a good market for them among mariners who ate them on long sea voyages to ward off scurvy .
A bumper harvest in 1828 left the farmers with an unsold surplus so, off they sailed, in small boats across the channel, to seek markets in England and Wales.
For many British people buying from the Onion Man (soon to be known as Johnny Onions because so many were named Jean) would be their first and only encounter with a French person.
The tradition continued, only interrupted by two world wars.
In 1972 a co-operative of Breton agriculturists founded the Brittany Ferries Company - to export local produce to the UK - and bring back tourists to Brittany.
There are fewer Johnnies now, they may be disappearing but the special “oignons roses” from Roscoff are still sought after. Their delicate flavour and cooking qualities give something extra to your cooking .
So if you are in Roscoff pay a visit to the Johnny Onions museum .
And try the speciality of tartine de compote d'oignons rosés de Roscoff at La Moules au Pot (see restaurant Tip)
We went for awalk after our meal on the night before our early morning departure back to Plymouth. It was a calm and warm evening and all around the harbour people were watching and photogrphing the sunset.
This tiny chapel, once the only landing mark for sailors stands on a little hill, that in Wales we would call a Tump .
Set in attractive gardens which have a semi-tropical appearance it commands wide ranging views to west and to east across the bay. We watched the approach of the Brittany Ferries ship that was to take us home whilst enjoying the views of old Roscoff and the famous belfry of its church.
It never freezes in Roscoff so they can grow all sorts of fabulous plants and flowers here. Stop by the "Exotic Gardens". You'll see all sorts of unexpected things and they sell plants and flowers for your own garden as well.
The only downside is that the website is only in French and the hours can get complicated off season - I suggest a visit to the tourist office to make sure they'll be open when you get there.