The pleasant little harbour village of BARFLEUR, 25km east of Cherbourg, was seven centuries ago the biggest port in Normandy. The population has since dwindled from nine thousand to six hundred, and fortunes have diminished alongside most recently through the invasion of a strain of plankton that poisoned all the mussels. It's now a surprisingly low-key place, where the sweeping crescent of the grey granite quayside sees little tourist activity. Near the town, about a thirty-minute walk, the Gatteville lighthouse is the second tallest in France (daily: AprilSept 10amnoon & 27pm; Oct to mid-Nov & FebMarch 10amnoon & 24pm; €2). It guards the rocks on which William, son and heir of Henry I of England, was drowned in 1120, together with three hundred of his nobles.
Barfleur has a fine selection of hotels. Le Conquérant stands a short distance back from the sea at 1618 rue St-Thomas-à-Becket (tel 02.33.54.00.82; €4055; closed mid-Nov to mid-March); its nicest rooms face onto a lovely garden, and there's a summer-only crêperie. Le Moderne is tucked away south of the main road at 1 place de Gaulle (tel 02.33.23.12.44; €3040; closed Jan to mid-Feb); some of the rooms are very inexpensive, while the restaurant is superb, with the €24 menu featuring a fish-shaped feuilleton (pastry) of seafood. The house speciality is Oysters, stuffed or raw.