Updated: Sep 23, 2022
Summer time in Somerset, England is
one of the most idylic settings you can find in Great Britain. Not only is it home to many great locations like Bath, Glastonbury and Minehead, it is the ancestral home of Cheddar cheese! Now, I must admit that before starting this blog, I had no idea that such a place existed let alone that it was the origin of the world reknowned Cheddar cheese. So, when I discovered this place, which is quite popular among Britons, I knew that it had to be my first Origin destination post.
All destinations and attractions will have links at the bottom of the post, right below the cheese review. Links
We arrived to a yurt that was booked through Airbnb. It was simple, but provided some amazing views of the valley below and of Worthy Farm. Worthy Farm is the location for the famous Glastonbury music festival, one of the largest in the world. The weather when we arrived was amazing!
The yurt was a bit chilly at night but added a rustic and adventurous note to our stay in the area. We enjoyed waking up to the wide open spaces with amazing views in 360 degrees.
I still need to learn how to properly operate the wood stove. I couldn't keep the thing lit!
Our first stop on the tour was an attraction called Wookey Hole. While it may be geared toward the kids, it was a great example of the caves the early makers of Cheddar cheese would have used to age their product. History isn't exact about how or when cheese production began in this area. However, it is clear why it flourished in this location. The caves are absolutely perfect for aging a sharp, tangy and crumbly Cheddar cheese! For a few pounds, you can tour the cave which was rumored to have been haunted by a witch! All you will find there now is some stalagmites and, unsurprisingly, cheese!
After purchasing some cheese and cider from Wookey Hole, we spent the evening at Glastonbury Abbey. We were lucky to stumble on a music festival being held on the abbey grounds. It was a great show and a wonderful surprise! Glastonbury Abbey is an 8th century monastary that now sits in ruins. The site is preserved and is surrounded by a nice garden and open spaces. The Abbey and the town of Glastonbury are quite charming and well worth a visit.
The next day, we ventured on to the feature of this trip, the town of Cheddar. This little town, tucked neatly into Cheddar Gorge, is quite beautiful. To start, we took a hike up to the top of the gorge for some stunning views of the gorge and town below. It is a midly tough trek since it is uphill, but the views from the top are well worth the effort. There are a few trails around but most will lead you to the top of the gorge.
Within the small town of Cheddar, only one active cheese maker remains. This is Cheddar Gorge Cheese Company. They offer tours through the factory that don't cost much and will take only a few minutes. Depending on the time of day for your visit, you will observe a different stage of the process in the making of Cheddar cheese. The basic steps are as follows:
Preparing the milk
Cutting the curds
Processing the curds
Draining the whey
If you want to learn more about this process, you will simply have to visit Cheddar Gorge or find a local cheese producer that can give you a tour!
While visiting the Cheddar/Somerset area, I purchased a few different samples of cheese. I will list them here and rate them according to my own taste.
Wookey Hole Cheddar Cheese
7.5 out of 10
-Rich aged, mineral aftertaste
-Great crumbly texture
Cheddar Gorge Cheese Company Cider, Garlic and Chives Cheddar
7 out of 10
-Tangy garlic and chives flavor up front
-Lingering flavor of cider
-Very soft and smooth texture
Cheddar Gorge Cheese Company Vintage Cheddar
8 out of 10
-Wonderful lingering aftertaste
-Nutty and rich flavors
-Chunky, somewhat rigid texture
Cheddar Gorge Cheese Company Oak Smoked Cheddar
8.5 out of 10
-Smell and taste of smoke
-Complex finish with oak notes
-Deep and bold flavor, great simply on its own
-Soft but almost flaky texture
Of course, I have tried many forms and types of cheddar but I can say that these are definitely high quality. I might be partial to some of the cheeses produced in my home state of Wisconsin, however I thoroughly enjoyed all of the cheese featured above!
After this journey, I will be looking to explore my next cheese origin city or region very soon! I think somewhere in mainland Europe will be next.
Thanks for reading!