Market Guide: Finistère – Saint Pol de Léon

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For many Irish people who holiday in France, Saint Pol de Léon is a slight detour taken on the way back to the ferry. The Brittany Ferries ship sails on a Friday evening from Roscoff down the road and many prefer to get to a place close to the ferry port but not to go somewhere directly connected to the departing ferry that marks so definitively the end of the holiday in France.

Another reason people go here is to make a last shopping excursion. It’s a small place but it has a large Leclerc store (complete with fuel pumps to get some last-minute tank-topping done also), as well as a Lidl virtually across the road.

St Pol is officially twice the size of Roscoff with a population of 7,300. The seaside town is the capital of the Ceinture Dorée or “Golden Belt”; a rich coastal agricultural zone where the benefits of the Gulf Stream ensure that it’s the prime area of vegetable production in Brittany.

Mmmm... Artichauds! No-one grows artichokes quite like the Bretons do.

Mmmm… Artichauds! No-one grows artichokes quite like the Bretons do.

The original Saint Paul that gives the town its name comes from a 6th-century monk who came from Wales to Brittany to convert the local populace to Christianity (sounds familiar?). The cathedral dedicated in his memory is worth a visit if you’ve time to kill. Park the car behind the fine Gothic building and take a leisurely stroll around.

Other than that, there is the Kreisker chapel from the 14th/15th centuries also in the centre of town.

You’ll have missed the local market if you only come on the Friday before the ferry, so take my advice and get to visit it when it’s on every Tuesday from 07:00 to 14:00 for food products and from 07:00 to 17:00 for fruit and veg and manufactured produce. During July and August, the size of the market swells from 50 to 250 stalls, radiating from the afore-mentioned cathedral and taking over the entire centre of this small town and truly transforming it into one of the most atmospheric markets in Brittany.

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