Auray and Saint Goustan

When Benjamin Franklin set foot on French soil in December 1776 to seek support in the American War of Independence, he came ashore in the tiny Breton port of Saint Goustan.

Plaque commemorating Benjamin Franklin's arrival in St Goustan

Situated on the banks of the River Loch, adjoining the town of Auray, Saint Goustan is a delightful, picturesque affair.

With a cobbled quayside lined with colourful timber-fronted houses, it’s a suitably charming spot for an influential American founding father/writer/politician/inventor/all-round-genius to disembark.

The Loch River at St Goustan

Unlike Benjamin Franklin, we ambled into Saint Goustan on foot via a path along the river (above) and as we approached the centre of the medieval port we were immediately captivated by its beauty.

Boats in the harbour at St Goustan

There were a number of wooden boats in the water by the quayside (above), which along with the aforementioned cobbled streets and 15th century buildings, made for an idyllic scene.

Stone bridge linking St Goustan and Auray

At the far end of the port, we crossed the small 17th century stone bridge (above), which led into Auray, and from there, we walked up the steep, winding road to the town centre on top of the hill.

The road was filled with pretty, old stone and timber-framed buildings (below), many of which had been turned into art galleries and shops selling clothing, furniture and bric-a-brac.

Old house in Auray

Auray’s biggest claim to fame, other than its port welcoming Benjamin Franklin, is hosting the Battle of Auray, which ended the 14th century War of the Breton Succession.

The conflict had raged for 23 years until the decisive 1364 battle, which saw Jean de Montfort and his English chums defeat Charles of Blois for control of the duchy.

Auray town hall

Up on top of the hill, we found ourselves in the Place de la République, which was home to the town hall (above), lots of lovely – if expensive – shops, as well as elegant stone buildings.

The Église Saint-Gildas in Auray

We strolled through the town until we reached the Église Saint-Gildas (above), an old church with an impressive steeple.

We headed inside the building via the 17th century Renaissance doorway and were awed by the opulent and expensive-looking Baroque altarpiece (below).

Inside the Église Saint-Gildas in Auray

Having seen all there was to see in Auray, we headed back to Saint Goustan for a drink in the Benjamin Franklin bar (one of a number of bars and restaurants named for the American).

Timber-framed house in St Goustan

The next morning we returned to Auray as it was market day. We’d been told by our host in Le Bono that the town boasted one of the best markets in the region (on a Monday and Saturday morning), and we were keen to check it out.

Set amid the streets between the Place de la République and the Église Saint-Gildas, the market was a huge, sprawling affair. The market featured stalls selling fruits and vegetables, clothes, toiletries, charcuterie, cheese, scarves, jewellery, hats and even mattresses.

It was incredibly busy and there was so much to see, I found it an overwhelming and disorientating experience – although I did buy a hat for €10!

Timber-framed houses in Auray

Market-aside, Auray and the port of Saint Goustan were lovely and a pleasant place to while away an afternoon, soaking up the handsome architecture and photogenic scenery.

If the 18th century version of Saint Goustan was as delightful then as it is today, I’m sure Benjamin Franklin would have been just as awed as we were.

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