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Guide to Morbihan, Brittany

4-storey high half timber houses painted with orange or blue window frames and pointed roof facades

Morbihan is one of the most popular tourist destinations in South Brittany. Offering the perfect mix of country and coast with fabulous sandy beaches, history, gastronomy, legends and fabulous scenery, there’s a wealth of wonderful places to visit.

Auray – a picture perfect port

Tiny harbour surrounded by tall skinny houses with pointed roofs and busy but tiny shops

The 15th century picture perfect port of St Goustan in Auray, named after the patron saint of sailors and fishermen is pretty as a chocolate box lid. Nestled on the banks of the River Loch, it flows into the Gulf of Morbihan. 15th century houses nudge each other on the hilly narrow streets that lead down to the traditional Breton Port. It was here that Benjamin Franklin landed in December 1776 for secret meetings with the King of France. Franklin took the road to Paris to ask France for help in the American War of Independence and one of the quays is now named after him.

The perfectly preserved 600 year old harbour is packed with restaurants and cafés.

Va va voom to Vannes

Half timbered houses with grey slate roofs surround a cobbled square

This old town of Vannes is a place of winding cobbled streets, full of history, character, colour and beautiful medieval architecture. Head to the Place Henri IV in the centre, lined with half timbered houses, and discover its authentic cafés, restaurants and quaint little shops selling local produce and gifts. There are two museums, plenty going on year round, including a summer Jazz Festival and there’s even a beach – the Conleau Peninsula. Vannes is a great base for visiting the gulf of Morbihan.

If you’re lucky enough to be there when the market is on (Tuesday and Saturday morning) you’ll discover the sleepy town come to life. From fresh bread, cheeses, olives and seafood, clothes, shoes and leather goods, you’ll be sure to find a treat!

The gorgeous Gulf of Morbihan

A sail boat in a tranquil bay under a sky layered pink and purple at sunset

The region takes its name from the words: Mor-Bihan, which means “little sea” in the Breton language. The natural harbour of the Gulf of Morbihan is the most famous feature of the coast line and is classified as one of the “Club of The Most Beautiful Bays in the World”. Apart from its good looks it’s also great for nautical jaunts. And if that’s not enough, there are, apparently, 365 islands off the coast, perfect for explorers!

Stones from the Past | Carnac

Long straight rows of rough cut boulders, a prehistoric footprint in a green field under a blue sky

You can’t fail to be impressed by the Alignements du Ménec – lines of stones, 1km long, 100 metres wide, as well as the Alignements de Kermario, more than 1km long. These mysterious stones have baffled historians for centuries. There are more than 4000 of them, some weighing up to 350 tons. Burial chambers, giant observatories marking the stars, grave stones? No one is absolutely sure but it’s thought they were erected around the same time as Stonehenge. Nearby the beach of Carnac is a great place to contemplate the meaning of the stones!

Off the beaten track in La Faouet

Between the rivers of Ellé and Inam, flowing down from the Black Mountains, is the village of La Faouet with its interesting chapels and fabulous covered market. The Chapel of Ste Barbe is well worth a detour for its unusual and beautiful location, 100m above a ravine near Grand Pont. In the 15th century a local knight out hunting got caught up in a terrible storm. He prayed to Ste Barbe and was saved. The next day he began building the chapel. There’s a monumental Renaissance staircase leading to a little oratory, and nearby is a tiny bell tower for pilgrims to toll the bell to bring down blessings from Heaven. These days people ring the bell and make a wish too.

Josselin and Lorient

Turrets of a castle surrounded by ancient houses reflected in a still river

Josselin in the interior of Morbihan is famous for its medieval castle with a doll museum, a beautiful old town for enjoying walks, stopping to eat a pancake or a bowl of cider or delicious fresh seafood. There’s a lively Saturday morning market too.

Lorient close to the coast, is the second most important fishing port of France. It’s quayside is a hive of activity each morning and there are five ports to explore. Great for coastal walks, delicious seafood cuisine, fabulous beaches and the annual Interceltic Festival.

If you want yet more reasons to visit this lovely department of Brittany – you can go island hopping too! Belle-Île is Brittany’s largest island and it lives up to its name. Varied scenery includes dramatic cliffs buffeted by Atlantic waves, caves and coves, golden silky sandy beaches, pine covered beaches and a lively harbour. It has been coveted and fought over for thousands of years and was once owned by Nicolas Fouquet, finance minister to Louis XIV. Today’s invaders, holiday makers, enjoy it just for a little while and leave with happy memories.

More info can be found on the website of Morbihan Tourist office www.morbihan.com

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