In the picturesque village of Port Eynon, nestled amongst the sand dunes and the peaceful beachfront, lies a house which holds a special place in the hearts of many who grew up in the Swansea area.

Ty Borfa (also known by its English name Borfa House), is a 40-bed venue in Gower where countless school trips have taken place over the years. Some people have enjoyed midnight feasts there with their girl guide groups, others have experienced run-ins with a feisty resident goat called Gwen and many remember forcing down an unusual dessert of custard and prunes at dinnertime. Each generation of schoolkids have their unique memories of the popular school trip destination and its legacy continues as a publicly-run adventure centre where young people often have their first taste of independence.

The house has been refurbished and includes a large open- plan lounge area, a small dining room and bunk-style accommodation. The beachside venue gets busy from February half-term onwards and is usually fully-booked during term-time until October, hosting an average of 30 school children each week. You can get more Swansea news and other story updates straight to your inbox by subscribing to our newsletters here.

Ty Borfa in Port Eynon
Ty Borfa in Port Eynon
Hafod Primary School pupils on a residential trip to Borfa House Port Eynon in September, 2014. They enjoyed rock climbing, rafting, exploring rock pools and looking at the history of the area.
Hafod Primary School pupils on a residential trip to Borfa House Port Eynon in September, 2014. They enjoyed rock climbing, rafting, exploring rock pools and looking at the history of the area
Allison Carpenter (top left) with her school friends on her trip to Borfa House in the mid 1980s.
Allison Carpenter (top left) with her school friends on her trip to Borfa House in the mid-1980s.

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People of all ages have fond memories of Borfa House. Allison Carpenter, 49, now lives in Huntsville, Texas, but went to Casllwchwr Primary School in Loughour while growing up in Swansea in the 1980s. Allison visited Borfa House with her school and said she still remembers it well. "I remember the fancy dress costume competition. My mother had made my costume out of a black trash bag and had cut out foil stars and moons and stuck them on. I was embarrassed to wear it but I did, and I won!," she said. The dental hygienist said she also remembered having lots of fun digging through rock pools on the beach and looking for shells and small crabs to take back to Borfa House and investigate.

Decades later, staff at the activity centre still get pupils to comb the beach and find crabs or fossils like Allison once did. Outdoor services activities manager for Swansea Council, Ceri Butcher, explained: "When [the children] arrive, one of the first things we do is rock-hop. They go along the coastline of Port Eynon. We might fight some crabs on the beach or a fossil and the instructors will talk about the natural landscape, ecology and history of Port Eynon. That first day is about getting them excited about where they are and just getting these young people outside."

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A large part of Ceri's role is looking after Borfa House and driving its strategic plan. While she has enjoyed a long career running various adventure centres, she is relatively new to the service. Ceri is no stranger to Borfa House though, as she enjoyed a school trip there with her primary school in 1994. "Obviously, it has a rather emotional connection for me," said Ceri.

"We do get people come to the site over the summer. People will be at the beach and they'll walk past and gaze at the building, chatting to people about what an important part of their childhood it is. Sometimes we forget that a young person's first experience of independence is on those trips. Even though we predominantly serve the people of Swansea, it's also the first time a lot of children get out to Gower for various reasons. We have a subsidised offer for young people from Swansea on free school meals," she explained.

While Ceri remembered simply doing lots of walking on her school trip to the house in the nineties, she explained the trips now included lots of different opportunities for young people to take part in activities they might not get the chance to try otherwise.

This is what a typical week at Borfa House in 2023 might look like like:

Day 1

Gower Adventure minibuses
When pupils arrive at Borfa House, they are encouraged to get outside and explore the coastline

'Rock-hopping' along the coastline at Port Eynon

Day 2

Surfing at Rhossilli
Pupils get to try activities at Borfa House that are often expensive and sometimes inaccessible- they learn things about themselves and discover new skills

Enjoying a full day of surfing at Rhossili Bay

Day 3

Pupils try rock climbing while on a trip to Borfa House
Pupils try rock climbing while on a trip to Borfa House

Hiking out to Mewslade Bay near Rhossili and climbing the rocks there

Day 4

Pupils hiking on a trip to Borfa House
There are lots of outdoor activities young people can get stuck into

Learning all about bush craft and building a den or a fire before cooking bread outside.

Day 5

Borfa House, Gower is a 40-bed venue which many Swansea schoolkids have fond memories of
Borfa House, Gower, is a 40-bed venue which many Swansea schoolkids have fond memories of

Trying an independent activity like orienteering or going on a scavenger hunt

Remembering Gwen the Goat and other things...

While times have changed and some traditions have been lost, when WalesOnline posted about Borfa House on our SwanseaOnline Facebook page, lots of readers shared their memories of school trips to Borfa House like they had visited the place only yesterday. Gwen the resident goat was mentioned quite a bit, with one person, Ribbon Ribbonesk commenting: "There was a swing out the back and a goat. I got butted in the bum by the goat!"

Gemma Davies wrote: "I'm 50 next month and always remember a goat called Gwen eating my woolen purse with money in it many moons ago." When Brian Young visited the house with his school, one dish in particular stuck with him. "Everyone that went in my school group remembers one thing in particular.... prunes and custard on our first night. We were all scarred for life having to force them down."

Gwen - Borfa House's resident goat
Gwen - Borfa House's resident goat

For Ceri, Borfa House is a place where young people can get outside and learn new things about the natural resources we are lucky enough to have on our doorstep. "I think that the local authority has done a really good job at protecting the service for a long time. When you consider what's happened to publicly-run outdoor centres in the UK. For Swansea, that service has always been very important.

"I think that it is a really important part of our educational journeys as young people in Swansea. It's that first taste of independence and it brings back really strong memories with our friends. We learn where we're from and challenge ourselves to do new things. I think anyone who takes a moment to reflect on their time in Borfa will be forced to admit that it was a really important moment in their time in school and continues to be with every generation that comes," she said.

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Other Memories of Borfa:

Here are some of the other memories of visits to Borfa that have been shared with us:

Sophie Turner: "There was always a talent show, although we did a performance for the teachers every time they came in to check if we had made our beds each morning. We also played rounders on the beach and I remember we all got scared by some kid saying they had seen a ghost in their room."

Tony Colby: "Yes! Loved my time there. I remember the Olympics was on, we were allowed to watch a bit in the nights. Wanna say 88.. Was with Pentrechwyth primary."

Alison Lenihan: "Went from Clase Junior school when we were in the 4th Form. Funny story about what us girls were told to pack 'incase' because of the climate change! And also going to those little chalets in Parkmill, from Mynyddbach School. Great fun for kids. Hope they still go.

Louise Thomas: "Stayed there with Ynystawe girl guides. Had a midnight feast. Loved it."

Debbie Vice: "Yep, went for a midnight walk we thought it was great."

Helen Davies: "I remember going for the long weekend trip to Borfa and one of my class mates had an appendicitis - because it has snowed she had to go up the hill on the milk float because the ambulance couldn’t get down."

Daniel Thomas: "Yes went there in 80s , I had a row for letting the goat free!!!"

Danielle Roberts: Getting stuck in that bull field was one I won't forget. Mrs Bennett 'no we won't need wellies'."

Gareth Hartnoll: "The red lady apparently haunted the place."