22 British cheeses to try
22 must-try British cheeses, from unpasteurised Dale End cheddar to Baron Bigod Brie. As chosen by fromage aficionado Andy Swinscoe, owner of The Courtyard Dairy in Yorkshire
Looking for the best British cheeses to buy? Read Andy Swinscoe's ultimate guide, then check out our gift guide for cheese lovers, cheese recipe collection and cottage cheese recipes. Then head to the olive shop to buy the best cheeseboards and cheese accessories.
A resurgence in farmhouse cheese-making means that traditionally-made cheddar is now available from at least a dozen cheddar makers across the country, all of who are producing interesting, unpasteurised, farm-made cheese. What does ‘traditional’ or ‘farm-made’ mean? Simply put, it refers to a product that's made by caring professionals on their own farms, using their own herd’s unpasteurised milk. Such cheeses are made using traditional native bacteria, are always ‘cheddared’ by hand, and are cloth-bound (rather than waxed or vacuum-packed) and aged to form a natural rind. Making cheddar in this age-old way produces a cheese that's unique to the farm and has a greater depth of flavour.
Made by Tricia Bey in Ayrshire using her own Ayrshire cattle, having built up the herd and diary from scratch in 2005. This cheddar is fast becoming renowned for its complex and long flavours.
The Courtyard Dairy (from £6.30/250g)
Dale End (Yorkshire)
Made using the traditional Dairy Shorthorn breed. This unpasteurised, organic cheddar, aged for 18-months, is made by Botton Camphill community (employing people with mental and learning disabilities to farm the animals and make the cheese). Tangy, full on-flavour.
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The Courtyard Dairy (from £8/250g)
Hafod Cheddar (Lampeter)
Created by the Holden family in 2005, they used a recipe from the early 1900’s to recreate cheddar ‘as it was’ – a much slower production process. Their cheese is rich and buttery, and brings out the best of the hilltop farm and rich Ayrshire-cattle milk.
Isle of Mull (Argyll and Bute)
Having made cheese with Montgomerys, the Reade family relocated to the Isle of Mull to set up their own farm and create this ‘modern classic’. Their cows are fed on the ‘draff’ from the nearby whisky distillery and the resulting cheese is sharp and fruity.
DukesHill (from £7.95/200g)
One of the cheddar makers of old: 'cheese has been made here as long as anyone can remember', says current generation James, who makes cheese with his father, George. Their cheeses have that classic, sharp cheddar bite.
Lincolnshire Poacher (Lincolnshire)
Simon Jones made his first batch of cheese in 1992 on his family farm in Lincolnshire. Based on a cheddar recipe but using a bit of methodology from the Alpine cheeses, this cheddar has a slightly waxier texture and fruitier, sweeter notes to contribute to that traditional cheddar tang.
The Cheese Society (from £6/250g)
Loch Arthur (Dumfries and Galloway)
A Scotland-based sister community to the Botton Camphill community (see Dale End, above). Loch Arthur hails from Dumfriesshire and the creamery again provides employment for people with learning disabilities who work the land and the dairy. Their cheese is sold at nine months old and is slightly milder, with a softer texture and full flavours.
One of the archetypal traditional cheddars, Jamie Montgomery makes a mighty-fine cheese on his farm in Somerset. Caramelised, beefy, and rich complex flavours are why this cheese is so great.
Mary Quicke’s father restarted cheddar making on their family farm in the 1970’s, adopting the old method of cloth-wrapped traditional cheeses. Now one of the larger farmhouse cheese makers in the UK, they produce some great traditional, old-style cheddar, still using all their own milk.
St Andrew’s Cheddar (Fife)
Jane Stewart originally started out on the coast in Fife making a Cheshire recipe (Anster), but now also makes a small amount of farmhouse cheddar from her own cows’ unpasteurised milk. St Andrew’s cheddar is powerful, strong cheddar – even at 10 months old.
St Andrew's Cheddar (from £5.50/200g)
After a long period making ‘block’ cheddar, Richard Calver restored their farm to its former glory and began making traditional cheese in 2001. Now run with his son, Tom, they have further improved their cheese to make rich, deep, savoury-flavoured cheddar that graces some of the best cheese shops in the country.
Winterdale Shaw (Kent)
Robin Betts started making cheese in 2006, after building a model eco-friendly dairy on his family farm. The cheese cave is so far underground it stays cool naturally and needs no refrigeration, and the warmth of the make room is used to heat their house, even their car is electric! Using the family farm’s unpasteurised milk he produces interesting and diverse-flavoured cheddar.
Chart Farm (from £10/500g)
A Morbier-style cheese that swept the board at the Artisan Cheese Awards in 2021. It has a sweet nuttiness and a line of wood ash that runs through its middle.
Best of the rest
Sarah Hampton makes thrilling cheeses with milk from her 60 goats in Bridgnorth, Shropshire. Capra Nouveau is her standout creation. Based on French recipe methodology, this supple cheese is washed in cider from the farm to give it a fruity, appley note.
The Courtyard Dairy (from £6.90/200g)
A super-creamy blue cheese, Stilton-style. Made by Cropwell Bishop Creamery in Nottingham, it's soft and spreadable in texture, with a mellow flavour.
Cropwell Bishop Stilton (£25/800g)
Baron Bigod Brie
Unrivalled British brie made by Jonny Crickmore, who's dedication towards quality has clearly put him on the right path. Using his family farm’s unpasteurised milk, Jonny makes a Brie-style to match the best Brie de Meaux. Well worth seeking out.
David Jowett has worked for some of the finest cheese-makers and cheesemongers in the UK. Setting up by himself in mid-2015, this cheese made it's mark on the UK scene. It’s a buttery, washed-rind cheese, soft, unctuous and melting in the mouth.
Made using rich sheep’s milk from the Errington’s farm in the wild Pentland hills overlooking Edinburgh, this hard cheese is reminiscent of a rich Manchego… but with a hint of Scotland! Christmas 2015 will see the first release of this year’s new spring season cheese, and at six-months old they are rich, honeyed and floral.
This crumbly Caerphilly won Super Gold at the 2022 World Cheese Awards, making it one of the top 16 cheeses in the world. It's mushroomy, semi-hard and slightly sour, with an edible rind and a fresh, lemony centre.
Paxton & Whitfield (from £9.75/250g)
This is for people who like a strong, mature cheese. Jo and David Clarke started out making red Leicester on their farm in 2005. Normally sold at 4-6 months, this vintage version is a whopping 18-months old and as a result is more vintage cheddar in style, powerful and strong.
Real Food Hub (£7.50/250g)
A blue cheese to give any stilton a run for its money. Based on a similar recipe, Michael Thompson only makes tiny amounts by hand of this sought-after cheese, using unpasteurised milk and piercing slightly less than most stilton. This allows complex, rich and smooth blue flavours to develop that linger on the tongue.
The Courtyard Dairy (from £8.95/250g)
Washed in cider, Yarlington is the result of a collaboration between cheesemaker David Jowett, cider maker Tom Oliver and Cellarman Sam. Supremely unctuous and mushroomy.
About Andy and The Courtyard Dairy
Andy Swinscoe is owner of The Courtyard Dairy in Yorkshire. He set it up with his wife Kathy in 2012 (both pictured above), after many years working for some of the best cheesemongers in France, London and the South West; including a apprenticeship studying cheese-maturing with Herve Mons near Lyon.
The Courtyard Dairy won The Best New Cheese Retailer at the 2013 British Cheese Awards, and was a runner-up for Yorkshire Food Destination of the Year 2013. Following these accolades The Courtyard Dairy also won 'Best Cheese Counter' and 'Cheesemonger of The Year' at The World Cheese Awards 2013; before being awarded runners-up in BBC Radio 4 Food and Farming Awards 2014 'Best Food Retailer'. Andy also stocks Hebden Goat cheese, which was crowned Supreme Champion at the 2023 Artisan Cheese Awards.