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As the American philosopher Ralph Waldo Emerson once said, ‘It's not the destination, it's the journey’. But now with cheese tourism on the rise, where the destination welcomes you into a world of diverse flavours, textures and aromas, all within a beautiful landscape, it most certainly is about the destination as well as the journey.

It’s one of the most breath-taking views I’ve ever seen. In the distance, I can see the sea sparkling in the afternoon sun, and in the foreground, the land thrives in greens and the odd spot of colour from the seasonal wildflowers. The view is undisturbed but for a drystone wall, dividing a small herd of cows on one side and a collection of tables, each with a small gaggle of people enjoying food and drink, on the other. The air is fresh and perfectly still, but occasionally, a strong scent of warm yogurt fills the air.

“This is by far the best view from the farm,” farmer and cheesemaker, Garth Reade, tells me. “And what better way than to savour it with some of our cheese and perhaps the best weather we’ve had here on the island for more than 40 years!”

I am on the Isle of Mull in the Inner Hebrides visiting the Reade family to sample and understand how they make their range of award-winning farmhouse cheese – under their name Isle of Mull Cheese – in this rather unique and beautiful part of the world.

Bucolic scenes like this were synonymous throughout the research for my book, A Portrait of British Cheese. Not only was I witness to a wonderful culture of artisan cheese on these isles, discovering its altruistic community and diversity of farming, animals and flavour sensations, but I was also fortunate enough to stumble across some of the most beautiful routes and destinations along the way.

Since writing the book, I always say, 'Cheesemakers know the best places to live and work!' That’s exactly true for the Reade family, who in the 1980s, relocated their whole farm from Somerset to the Isle of Mull, due to an 'abiding love for this storied corner of Scotland.' 

Garth and I are sitting in what the family call ‘The Glass Barn’, the farm’s on-site farm shop and café that boasts a range of savoury snacks and drinks, plus their selection of cheeses to buy – Hebridean Blue, a rich and creamy raw cow’s milk blue, and Isle of Mull, a punchy, raw cow’s milk Cheddar-style cheese, which also comes as Smoked Isle of Mull. As the name suggests, The Glass Barn is cladded in glass, and inside, an impressive vine threads it’s rope-like branches in every direction, which, when in leaf, makes for an extra special setting.


Like the Reade family on the Isle of Mull, many of our cheesemakers and cheesemongers are looking to diversify their enterprises, creating new and additional avenues for their businesses like new cafés and farm shops, whilst hosting cheese tours and sampling events. As I see it, this can only be a good thing, reconnecting product to place, and the animals and people who produce it. As with the popularity of agro-tourism in Europe and viticulture here in the UK (just look at Knepp and Tillingham Wines in Sussex), involving citizens in the journey of cheese is gaining momentum and it’s fantastic to see.


Whether you are exploring the rural beauty of Warburg Nature Reserve in Oxfordshire, why not pop next door to devour a thick, oozing cheese toastie at Nettlebed Creamery’s Cheese Shed. Or, if you’re scaling the limestone scars of God’s Own Country, pop into the nearby hallowed halls of The Courtyard Dairy to enjoy a plethora of cheese or a wood-fired pizza in their new restaurant Rind, a collaboration with The Cheese Bar.

So, whenever your next holiday or weekend break is, why not plan a scenic route to discover one of our cheesemakers (make sure to research which are open for visitors) or cheesemongers in the British and Irish Isles, who will be thrilled to share with you their delicious dairy delights.

Top 5 Journeys to Cheesemakers / Cheesemongers in 2024

1. ‘Rind’ at The Courtyard Dairy & The Cheese Bar, Yorkshire

Get your cheese fix at The Courtyard Dairy, then pop next door to enjoy a wood-fired pizza with British cheese toppings & natural wine. From 25th March, they are opening 7 days. Opening Times Monday (12pm - 6pm), Thursday (12pm - 7pm), Frida and Saturday (12pm - 7.30pm) and Sunday (12pm - 6pm).

2. ‘The Glass Barn’ at Isle of Mull Cheese, Isle of Mull


They describe it as, ‘A peaceful spot to watch the cows go by’. Stunning location with equally good cheese. Summer opening times, from October-April. The farm shop is open Thursday – Saturday (11am-3pm), café and farm shop is open Sunday and Monday (10am-4pm). They keep busy in the café kitchen in the down season, producing chutneys and preserves, using much of their own grown ingredients, which can also be purchased in their shop.


3. ‘Cheese Shed’ at Nettlebed Creamery, Oxfordshire


The Cheese Shed is open Monday to Sunday (8:30am – 3:00pm). Good for walkers, cyclists, families, dogs and anyone wanting to pop in for refreshment in a friendly atmosphere. Enjoy cheese toasties made with their multi award-winning cheese, plus a range of kefir, smoothies, ice cream, cakes and snacks, and locally ground coffee made with their own unhomogenised, organic milk. They also have The Shed Shop, selling local produce.

4. ‘Cheese shop & Tasting Courses’ at Glynhynod Farm, Ceredigion


Glynhynod Farm is home to both Caws Teifi (cheesemakers) and Dà Mhìle (an organic distillery). The family-run farm has a charming on-site shop that is open Monday to Saturday (10am - 4pm). They open on Bank Holidays except Christmas Day and Boxing Day, closed on Sundays. If you are visiting the shop or booking a tasting in the distillery, they also suggest a fantastic range of local places to stay and eat here to make a week or weekend of it.


5. ‘Westcombe On-Farm Shop’, Westcombe, Somerset

Pop into their delightful on-site shop if you're passing through Somerset, only a few minutes from Bruton or Shepton Mallet. Find their full range of Somerset cheeses and charcuterie, plus beer, bread, flour, cider & Somerset Cider Brandy – Bricknell’s Ice Cream is also delicious.

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The Rise of Cheese Tourism

Words & Photography by Angus D. Birditt | @angusdbirditt

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