The Scottish Cheese Trail
Photo: Connage Highland Dairy
Artisan cheese making has come to Scotland in a big way. Not so long ago outside of the cities your choice would often be limited to generic cheddar that resembled plastic or something imported. All that has completely changed with a huge resurgence in the craft, and Scotland is now home to some genuinely world class dairies and cheese producers. The shop local movement began as a campaign to encourage more people to eat local produce, with such a huge variety to choose from now there has never been an easier time for you to sample the true taste of the places that you are holidaying in.
St Andrews is famous for many things but cheese has never been one of them. With the reputation the local cheese manufacturer is building, that may soon change. The St Andrews Farmhouse Cheese Company has been winning awards for a number of years for its traditionally produced varieties which include Farmhouse Cheddar and Red Anster. More recently the company opened its own coffee shop. Here you can watch the cheese being made through the Viewing Gallery windows, and enjoy delicious home baking. On a clear day you can sit outside the coffee shop on the balcony and enjoy the panoramic views down across the fields towards the Firth of Forth and you can also see the cows who you have to thank for such delicious produce. If you want to really stand out then the farm will also create for you what is apparently the very latest in fashion, a cheese wedding cake. Balfour House is a luxury apartment close to the beach in St Andrews. It has a well equipped kitchen and a cosy wood burning fire to retire beside with your stash of local goodies.
The Isle of Lewis Cheese Company is the first dairy on the islands to provide hand-made artisan cheese using quality ingredients from their own croft, including milk from their own goats. One of their specialties is Brìgh nan Eilean, a Brie type cheese made with pasteurised Goat's milk. It has a rich creamy texture and an aroma and flavour that develops as it matures. Crowdie is the traditional soft cheese of the Highlands and Islands and is one of the other most sought after items that is produced here. It's intense, melt in the mouth flavour comes from the fresh, full cream milk used to make it. Best enjoyed simply spread on a locally made oatcake. And where best to enjoy such a treat? A picnic on a private beach would be my ideal location. Tamana Cottage has views to die for but, if you manage tear yourself away for just a short while, you can find the most secluded picnic spot you can imagine.
Connage Highland Dairy is a traditional, family-owned, fully organic business, situated on the family farm, Milton of Connage at Ardersier. The cows here graze the fertile clover, misted with sea spray from the Moray Firth which gives their milk an extra special taste. From their state-of-the-art cheese dairy they use traditional techniques to produce a range of organic, hand-crafted vegetarian cheeses and yoghurt. The cheeses here have won multiple awards and have featured on the Hairy Bikers TV programme. The pantry and café on site offers you a chance to try before you buy while watching the cheese being made through the viewing window. Stay for a coffee, some home baked cakes and the renowned cheese platter. East Cottage is located in the hills above Cawdor and has spectacular views down towards Ardersier and the Moray Firth. The front garden is the perfect place to relax after a days cheese foraging.
Royal Deeside is home to the Cambus O’ May Cheese Company who have been making artisanal cheese from their own family recipes for over 50 years. Hand crafted using traditional methods these award winning cheeses are nothing but unadulterated, unpasteurised goodness. One of the most interesting products here is a recreation of a famous 1970s farmhouse recipe for a dry curd cheese. This was a Scottish institution and the melt in your mouth finish and strong nutty flavour will leave you dreaming of days gone by. Part of the charm of raw milk cheeses like these is the difference in flavour that comes with different seasons so expect subtle changes as the year goes on. Drumrunie is right in the heart of the Cairngorms and looks over the river Dee, a fabulous base for exploring this scenic and historical part of Scotland. You are also close here to the ski slopes so what better way to earn yourself a fondue this winter.