Saint Goustan stopped us in our tracks the moment we set eyes on it. This is not a town you have work hard to love!
I say town, the towns name is actually Auray, but the port area is known as Saint Goustan. You may see it written as Auray-Saint-Goustan. But however you want to refer to it, this little gem ended up being one of our best places in Brittany and we were so thrilled we were here for the week!
What To Expect When You Visit Auray Saint Goustan
Whilst the majority of travellers unconsciously fly by the town of Auray on the N165 dual-carriageway above, life goes on in this little hidden port, much like it has since medieval times. As it happens, Auray owes its olde-worlde charm to the fact that it was a little overlooked in the first place. Whilst its strategic position as a protected coastal inlet put it on the map for trade originally, it wasn’t long before more superior port towns opened up on the Brittany coast. The port of Saint-Goustan which was made wealthy and handsome by means of its waters was now not so easy to reach by road or rail. As a less obvious trading centre, it quickly dropped from its elevated status – Auray who??
However, on the plus side, if the town and port of Auray-Saint-Goustain had moved with the times to keep up with the demands of import and export, time wouldn’t have stood still and Auray probably wouldn’t be the medieval beauty it is today!
So, when you walk the cobbled streets of Auray-Saint-Goustan, you really feel like you’ve been transported back a few hundred years. The 15th-century port on the River Auray is perfectly preserved and so handsome you can’t help but want to linger and soak it all up for a while. So, please, let us show you around…
Auray – Things To Do
Whether you’re in Auray as a day-tripper or you had the good fortune to book the town as a base for a vacation in Brittany, you will want to make sure you don’t miss a few things…
The Port of St Goustan
The jewel in the crown of Auray has to be the little port area at the mouth of the river. Almost 250 years ago a certain Mr Benjamin Franklin set foot on these shores on his way to a secret meeting with the King of France. He was seeking assistance from the French in the American War of Independence so I doubt his mind was in ‘holiday mode’ but at least he was greeted by the most magnificent little port area. And if all he ever encountered of France was Saint Goustan and Paris well then, he could set sail home a happy man! The dock later became named Quai Benjamin Franklin.
Now over 600 years old you won’t fail to be as impressed as Franklin by its long-lasting beauty.
Cafe’s and restaurants spill onto the cobbles and musicians in the square accompany your meal. We ate in several Auray restaurants during our week in Brittany and all lived up to our expectations of good French fare.
Depending on the evening, local dance classes take place on the quayside and antique markets set up their stalls. This is a local town where residents continue on with their daily activities whilst tourists look on in awe that real people actually get to live their lives in this place!
Saint Goustan Boat Trips
If you are staying for longer in Auray, book yourselves a boat ride from Port de Saint Goustan to see the islands of the Gulf of Morbihan – it’s a lovely day trip and an opportunity to see all the beautiful bays from the water. This company take you out as part of a sailing team and you get to be hands-on on deck – a great experience if you’re in Brittany with kids. You’ll pass cute little fishing villages and mansions on the slopes, pretty little islands and oystercatchers. And if you would rather take out a little electric boat for an hour or two, check out Ty Bagou and their rates.
The Town of Auray
Over the Pont d’Auray bridge (where oysters grow on its pillars) you can climb the fairly steep Place de la Republique to the town of Auray. It doesn’t compete with the medieval half-timbered port down below but the traditional French architecture looks similar to other cute Brittany towns and is still easy on the eyes. Auray has the added bonus of being a bit of a location for artists and the inevitable subsequent array of galleries too.
On Mondays, there’s a market in Auray, but there are plenty of shopping opportunities in the small boutiques and gift shops that line the main streets.
Auray St Goustan Restaurants
Le P’tit Goustan
We always like to check out the bib Gourmand Guide for recommendations of excellent food for excellent prices and Le P’tit Goustan had made that list. Expect platefuls like paintings and a high chance of meeting the chef as he likes to come out and explain his dishes.
It’s all local produce, often organic and mostly seasonal – my type of gastronomy! There is a reasonably priced set menu and a decent wine list. Take your time in Le P’tit Goustan, it’s definitely the kind of meal you will want to savour. And it’s probably best to book.
Lunch (3 courses) from €24.5
Le Yac’h on the waterfront was our favourite place for cocktails and people-watching in the evenings – especially if you could grab the deckchairs at the front. But we also discovered it was perfect for almost every occasion too. Its versatility explains why it was always fully booked, so make sure you call ahead.
It does a great burger, fab charcuterie and fromage plates and pretty decent crepes too (and I’m not the biggest fan of crepes!).
Le Yac’h attracts all sorts, including families, french ladies in giant sunglasses and courting couples – it’s a really great place. And make sure you try the local cidre.
If there was ever a French equivalent of English pub grub then this place would fit the bill. La Licorne has everything you would expect to see on a French menu from moulles-frites to ratatouille, plus a healthy amount of Breton extras. We ate here several times during our stay in Brittany and we kept returning because the standard of food could be relied on yet the prices were slightly lower than other sub-standard places we ate at. The staff are very accommodating too.
The 3 course evening set menu for €29 is excellent value.
Places To Visit Near Auray Saint Goustan
Brittany’s answers to Stone Henge, the Carnac Stones are only a 20 minute drive away from Auray.
Whilst Stone Henge might be more visually impressive due to their size, the Megaliths of Carnac will still make you stand in awe at the sheer amount of them. There are more than 3000 prehistoric granite standing stones (the largest collection in the world) with almost an equal amount of theories attached to them. Well worth seeing.
In keeping with its name, in my opinion there are three sides to Trinite-sur-Mer… The beach, the harbour and the old port. The latter, not unlike Saint Goustan, is an old pretty port unique with its colourful array of houses on the water. It’s only a small section before you hit the more modern side of the town which is a buzz of everything boat and water-sport related.
La Trinite-sur-Mer is the perfect place for a morning coffee with a view – there are plenty of places with outdoor seating and you can watch the hectic goings-on of fishermen, weekend sailors and families making their way to the beaches.
The Salt Marshes of Kervillen
A really interesting place near to Auray are the natural salt marshes at Kervillen. Damien Phélip (and his two sheep) rehabilitated this natural salt site in 2012 and you can wander around the area, although not onto the marshes themselves but close enough to see. The area has attracted so much wildlife and is a great spot for birdwatchers.
It’s listed as Marais Salants de Kervillen on Google’s map of Brittany and many people incorporate it into a sweet walk from Plage de Kervillen to Men Du. You can’t actually purchase any salt directly from Damien but he sells it at the market at La Trinite-sur-Mer.
So don’t be the traveller that fly’s by Saint Goustan on the N165. Set aside a few hours and enjoy the trip back in time.