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St-Goustan in the village of Auray in the Morbihan : Click to enlarge picture
Some people find AURAY, with its over-restored ancient quarter, slightly dull – but it's a lot less crowded than Vannes, a lot cheaper than Quiberon town and usefully placed for exploring Carnac, the Quiberon peninsula and the Gulf of Morbihan.

The centre of the town today is the place de la République, with its eighteenth-century Hôtel de Ville. In a neighbouring square, linked to the place de la République by rue du Lait, is the seventeenth-century church of St Gildas, with its fine Renaissance porch. A covered market adjoins the Hôtel de Ville, but on Mondays an open-air market fills the surrounding streets with colour – and stops all traffic for a considerable radius.

However, Auray's showpiece is undoubtedly the ancient quarter of St-Goustan, with its delightful fifteenth- and sixteenth-century houses. The bend in the River Loch, an early defended site, was a natural setting for a town – and, with its easy access to the gulf, it soon became one of the busiest ports of Brittany. Today, as you look at it from the Promenade du Loch on the opposite bank, with the small seventeenth-century stone bridge still spanning the river, it's not difficult to imagine it in its heyday. In 1776, Benjamin Franklin landed here on his way to seek the help of Louis XVI in the American War of Independence.

The gare SNCF is twenty minutes' walk from the centre; buses run from the station through the centre of Auray and on to Carnac and Quiberon. Auray's tourist office is up in town at 20 rue du Lait, very near the Hôtel de Ville on place de la République (mid-June to mid-Sept Mon–Sat 9am–7pm, Sun 9am–noon; mid-Sept to mid-June Mon–Sat 9am–noon & 2–6pm; tel, A small annexe is maintained in July and August at the train station. The most appealing place to stay would be by the port in the St-Goustan quarter, but in the absence of waterfront hotels the best option is the Hôtel Le Branhoc, about 300m from the waterfront at 5 route du Bono (tel,; €40–55; closed mid-Dec to mid–Feb), which offers clean, well-equipped rooms and a reasonable restaurant. Up in town, Hôtel Le Cadoudal, 9 place Notre-Dame (tel; under €30), is a cheaper, more basic alternative.

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