Timeless classics: great historical sites near Roscoff

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Older than the pyramids

If you want something truly historic, how about a prehistoric burial chamber? Everyone's heard of the pyramids, but the Cairn de Barnénez is closer and it's in very picturesque surroundings. Perched on a hilltop, this ancient collection of stones stands guard over the sparkling seas as well as the old bones it protects.

It dates back to 5000BC but, incredibly, it was only discovered in 1955. The entire monument stands 6 metres tall, around 25 metres wide and stretches for 75 metres along the grassy slope. It is open for visits and off-season it offers free visits on the first Sunday of each month - to find out more, check the Cairn de Barnénez page at the Centre Monuments de Nationaux.

Locquirec's Atlantis

Visit the charming seaside town of Locquirec, and you'd never believe some of its hidden histories. There is the lost town of Lexobie, a real town that once included 30 churches but was drowned by an exceptionally high tide.

Ancient coins have been found nearby bearing the inscription 'Lexoviensis Civitas' and the likeness of Emperor Adrien, and the town itself was originally between Le Yaudet and Saint Efflam. Local legend claims that it can secretly rise above the waves at Christmas - but if you dare to visit, you might be trapped forever!

The murderous Marquis

In Plouégat-Guerrand, between Locquirec and Morlaix, stand the awe-inspiring remains of the Château du Guerrand. This haunting spot immediately transports you to another era, even more so when you hear about its bloodthirsty owner, the Marquis de Guerrand.

His mother would ring a bell to warn everyone when the Marquis was out rampaging as he was so violent. One terrible day, he murdered a man and fled the town for twenty years. When he returned, he was a reformed man, turning his château into a hospital and finally becoming something of a local hero.

The timbers of Morlaix

Half an hour's drive from Roscoff sits the historic coastal town of Morlaix, famous for its iconic viaduct and charming harbour - but not everyone gets to see the fascinating Pondalez houses. These historic timbered buildings date from the 1500s, when wealthy linen merchants displayed their fortunes by building impressive homes and they have a particular design that is unique to Morlaix.

The two features that set them apart from other wooden-frame houses are the distinctive inner courtyard - or 'lanterne' - and the fact that each successive floor of the house extends further out than the last, creating an overhang on the ground floor. One of these Pondalez houses is part of Morlaix Museum so you can explore and see what makes them so special.

While you're in the town, also take the time to climb the many alleyways that lead up to the viaduct, the site of a former castle and some stunning views. Take your camera!

The prison at Guerlesquin

Have you ever heard of Guerlesquin? Pronounced Gair-less-kan, this modest market town is an unexpected gem about 20 minutes east of Morlaix. Why so fascinating? Because Guerlesquin is the only French town that still has the three symbols of the Old Regime: the church, the market halls and a prison.

Of course, for most of us, it's the prison that's irresistible, dating from 1640 and relatively tiny, a square block with rounded turret corners, right in the centre of the marketplace. If you ask the local Tourist Office, you might even get the chance to take a look inside and imagine yourself a prisoner!

Step into the crypt...

Brittany's flamboyant parish churches (or Enclos Paroissiaux) are well-known, but the church at Lanmeur is sitting on another secret - literally! Follow the steps down under the church, and you'll find a Romanesque crypt that is a rare example of this period, complete with sculptures, vaulted ceilings and even an ancient fountain. Certainly not what you'd expect in this quiet spot...

Annaliza Davis

Do you have any other favourite historic sites around Roscoff? Let us know in the comments below.

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