Going north to Roscoff!

This was an effort to see as much as possible of my lovely Bretagne/Brittany/Breizh and looking up saw this town north of us so ther we went to Roscoff! Always by the coast and this older post I will update as an introduction to the city; plenty other posts on it in my blog. Hope you enjoy my going north to Roscoff!

Let me bring you further north , to the northern coast of Finistére , and the city of Roscoff.  This was a curiosity trip as heard so much of my English friends coming by there that I decided to take the trek up north to see. Of course, another delightful trip in my lovely Brittany. I am about 164 km from it cutting inland D769 Morlaix and then D58 to Roscoff. It will be a bit long mainly because I love the history of it and all, why visit if not dwell into the history of the place. An introduction to Roscoff!

Roscoff  is a former haven of Corsairs and then smugglers, from where the johnnies sell their pink onions. It is a small seaside town that has preserved its architectural heritage from the 16-17C. Its deep-water port, served by Irish Ferries and Brittany Ferries, which has its headquarters, provides ferry connections with the British Isles and Spain. The Breton name of the town is Rosko and Roscoff comes from the Breton Ros meaning promontory, and from Goff which means blacksmith the name of Roscoff could therefore be translated into French by the Hill of the blacksmith.

In 1872, is the origin of the first legislation  pole of research and teaching in Marine biology, the Biological Station of Roscoff.  It is also a stay of aftercare which saw the birth of the concept of Thalassotherapy Center in 1899, the Institut Rochcroum, and proposes , in addition to a private care and rehabilitation facility, the Kerléna Clinic, a reference Héliomarin hospital founded in 1900, the Center of Perharidy.  Roscoff is included in the Special Protection Zone Natura 2000 of the Bay of Morlaix and borders the natural area of ecological, fauna and floristic interest of the Penzé estuary.  

Roscoff occupies the point of the promontory which closes to the west the Bay of Morlaix has 14 km of coastline with several beaches of very fine white sand. Access by land is made from Saint-Pol by a single road, the D58  or Santec, by a small coastal road. Roscoff is 98 nautical miles, 182 km from Plymouth, 210 km from Rennes and 562 from Paris. The airport of Morlaix is about 30 km. The SNCF railway station of Roscoff, terminus of the line of Morlaix in Roscoff, via Saint-Pol-de-Léon, is served by trains TER Bretagne which allow a correspondence with the TGV in Morlaix. Sea shuttles between Roscoff and the Isle of Batz; Ferries to and from Plymouth and Cork from the port of Bloscon; The air link is via the Brest-Guipavas airport. The Vieux port (old Port) is a port of stranding and a pier for tourism to the island of Batz. At the beginning of the 20C it replaced the old Port of the 16C, which is itself today only a simple Promenade quay. The port of Bloscon is a deep water port passenger traffic by ferries to Great Britain (Plymouth) and Ireland (Cork). The fishing port  has 300 places of which 280 on calm water and 20 berths. The new marina of Roscoff, in deep water, offers 625 berths for all types of boats including 50 sites reserved for visitors.  In front of Roscoff, beyond a double channel, the Great Kan and the Little Kan separated by the rock of Perroc’h, and animated by strong currents, is located the island-of-Batz distance of 550 meters. Roscoff is served by road by the D 58 which is 4 lanes  of Morlaix (where this road joins the N12) to Saint-Pol-de-Léon and the D 788 from Brest via Lesneven.



A bit of history I like

The current Pointe du Vil is a cul-de-sac where the route of Saint-Pol-de-Léon is called at the 17C  rue  Ker da Laez, now rue Albert de Mun.  This road comes to what will become the Rue du Cap, current rue Édouard-Corbières, along the coast towards Perharidy, ex-cap Ederi or Pointe Ederi , which is called pen ederi or pen ar ederi. The location of the bifurcation is then occupied by an inn, at the site of the current Hotel de France today lodging of the Biological Station of Roscoff. The place Croaz Vaz, (the island of Batz, cross) which will give its name to the fort built by Vauban three and a half centuries later. As attested by a charter of 1323.


During the war of the Succession of Brittany in 1363, fourteen years after the start of the Black Plague, the fort of Bloscon, on the present old port, taken by the English, is taken over by Guesclin. From 1374 to 1387, the port of Rosco himself was burned several times by the governor of Brest, Richard Fitzalan, whom Richard II chose to support the Montfortian party.  In 1455, the Duke Pierre de Montfort, endorsing a state of facts generated by this hundred-year naval war, orders that the nobles  of a new  Breton law giving rise to a shipowners ‘ capitalism that led to the economic development of Saint-Malo and Morlaix and the latter’s port, Roscoff. In 1500, the new Roscoff was built  700 meters further north of Roscoff Goz where some wells were used to discharge freshwater vessels. In 1595, the Duke of Mercœur, claiming Baillistre militarily allied with the Spaniards against the king for five years, reinstated by letters patent the trade with Bilbao and Seville, the main outlets. Roscoff also served as a refuge for several English Catholic families fleeing the persecutions begun during the reign of Elizabeth. Roscoff was also from the 16C, with Morlaix and Paimpol, one of the first ports to be armed with cod fishing on the banks of Newfoundland and then on the coast of Iceland. Salted cod was sold in France and especially in Spain; as Brittany was not subject to the taxes, the fishermen of Picardy and Normandy came to Roscoff to supply salt with good account.

The fall of Nicolas Fouquet (Vaux le Vicomte castle disgraced by king Louis XIV) marks the beginning of the economic and political destruction of the province under the absolutist reign of the Duke of Chaulnes. Louis XIV’s policy and the protectionist measures of Charles II closed the English and Hanseatic markets. Roscoff became the first port of smuggling with the British Isles for almost three centuries. In 1694, Vauban signed the plans of the transformation executed by the Renaudière, from the fort of Bloscon into a large battery of 13  cannons closed by a drawbridge. The Bloscon fort becomes the seat of the captaincy of Saint-Pol-de-Léon which extends from Ploujean to Cleder and whose centerpiece is the Chateau de Taureau. In 1790, Roscoff was unilaterally incorporated into the autonomous municipality of Saint-Pol-de-Léon. Under the French revolutionary government, from September 1792 to May 1793, then during the first half of 1794, Roscoff became a deportation center. The Directoire closes all the places of worship again and returns the two remaining priests of the parish into hiding.

At the beginning of the 20C, the port of Roscoff experienced significant traffic thanks, in particular, to the Transchannel links. Many of the coasters and long hauls regularly stop there. The flotilla was composed mostly of specialized fishing nets and ropes (or bottom lines). On 18 April 1943, the Nazis decided to destroy some parts of the Fort du Bloscon, built by Vauban, to build seven blockhouses, fourteen firing bunkers and a few other concrete works, all welcoming a battery of sixty men. In early January 1944, it was through this element of the Atlantic Wall that Erwin Rommel began his inspection tour to Plérin. In August 1969, the pedestrian jetty, allowing the embarkation for Batzisland at low tide, was inaugurated after two years of work. The tourist shuttle fleets developped and by 1972, the first car-ferry connection with England took place, at the deep water port of Bloscon, whose work had begun two years earlier.

Things to see in Roscoff!

Le Pardon (forgiveness/repent). The third Monday in July, after the ten-hour mass, takes place the Pardoun Sant Barba (forgiveness of Santa Barbara). The procession, along the itinerary inside the city, lasts from fourteen hours to vêpres. The disguise is that of the high Leon, for women, as for men, black, that an embroidered shawl sometimes comes to brighten. Women’s headdress is the Chikolodenn. The oldest of the four hymns of forgiveness is Sant Barba e Rosko. The house of Johnnies allows tourists to take an interest in the history of these onion merchants who crossed the channel to sell their products from the mid-19C.

Dolmen of Kerfissiec. Lech de Reuniou says Croaz Covec (Croix Riffleshell), near Keravel (south west of the town). It is a narrow stele, a sort of miniature menhir carved to serve in the manner of a cippe, similar to many others in the Leon, dating from the Iron Age, or at the earliest the 7C B.C., reused to make the base of a much more recent Calvary. Nearby, three hundred meters from the place-dit Leslec’h  stood a triple walkway covered dynamited in 1942 in favor of the Nazis by the owner of the field which was encumbered.  Calvary of Roscogoz, in granite and Kersanton, dates from the end of the 14C or the beginning of the 15C.

Church of Notre-Dame de Croaz Batz. (see post)The square is enclosed by a wall in which is incised a ossuary of the early 17C and a funeral chapel. Altarpiece of Alabaster exposed in a chapel specially arranged in 1634 in the south transept of Notre Dame. Of the 15, these are 7 high reliefs brought back from Nottingham that represent the Passion.

Hotel Le Skinny, 22 rue de Amiral-Réveillère, complemented by two wings in the 17C. The staircase turret at the back seems to have remained of the 16C. The strong house (fort like), built in the 16C by the Christian Corsair the Pappe  attacked in 1592 by Anne de Sanzay de la Magnane, Captain interested in the Holy Union of Morlaix.

The manor of Kerestat, next to the chapel of Bonne-Nouvelle, erected by the Kergouvelen family, continue in 1630 of a shipowner, James of Portenoire, then of the military governor of Brittany, the Earl of Marbeuf.  The house called “of Mary Stuart” where Monseigneur de Chavigné, Bishop-Count of Leon, would have welcomed the future queen of France on her landing.


The Château de Laber built in 1890 on a plot of 50 hectares. The owner widowed in 1901, died in 1902, madly in pain as a result of the drowning of her adopted son in the dike lock in 1900, leaving the castle to public Assistance, which granted  it for 99 yrs to the Center Helio-Marin in 1920.

The lighthouse, (see post) 24 meters high, was built in 1934 to replace a red lantern that dated from 1884 and was located at the end of the mole. Its two-meters diameter lantern illuminates by occultation twelve seconds on two areas of a white fire up to 15 nautical miles thanks to a fixed optic by Henry-Lepaute . The exotic and Botanical Garden of Roscoff, 3 500 exotic species ranked by continent on 16 000 m2 landscaped on the Bay of Morlaix.

Some webpages to help you plan your trip to Roscoff and it is a must, rather nice if you are into architecture, history ,and the sea like me.

The city of Roscoff on history/heritage: http://www.roscoff.fr/-Histoire-et-archives-de-la-ville-.html

The Roscoff tourist office on Roscoff: https://www.roscoff-tourisme.com/en/discover/6-destinations/roscoff/

The Finistére dept 29 tourist office on Roscoff: https://www.toutcommenceenfinistere.com/article/roscoff

The Bretagne region tourist board on Roscoff: https://www.brittanytourism.com/destinations/the-10-destinations/pink-granite-coast-morlaix-bay/roscoff/

And there you go folks, all set and just need the go. Nice place in my Bretagne, the 3rd most visited region of the most visited country in the world, France! (UN-WTO). See Roscoff is a gem in the north.

And remember, happy travels, good health, and many cheers to all!!!

2 Comments to “Going north to Roscoff!”

  1. Fascinating history. I have visited all coasts of France except Brittany. Thank you for this post!

    Liked by 1 person

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