The climate and geography of Scotland are well suited to cheese-making. The short making season in Scotland meant that traditional cheeses usually required to be capable of being stored (matured) through the winter - hence the predominance of hard (matured) cheese in Scotland and Britain. At one time most farmhouses or crofts made their own cheese, but there was little financial return. Improved transportation of milk changed the scene dramatically.
Today there are still more than two dozen cheesemakers across Scotland, ranging front large industrial Cheddar creameries to the handful of artisan and farmhouse cheese makers. Scottish Cheddar accounts for 70-80% of total output and the main creameries are located at Locherbie, Stranraer and Campbeltown and on the islands of Bute, Arran, Islay, Mull, Gigha and Orkney. Often the creameries are open to visitors. The advent of modern temperature controlled facilities and refrigerated transport has revived artisan cheesemaking in small creameries and farms across the country.
A McLelland & Son Ltd created a wide range of delicious Scottish cheeses including connoisseur cheeses to awaken the palates of many a connoisseurs. In recent years the main supermarkets including Tesco, Sainsbury, Somerfields and the Co-op have stocked a selection of local cheeses and specialist cheese shops in Scotland's main towns have extended their ranges. If you come across interesting local cheeses when you eat out, it may be worth enquiring where these can be bought.
Some of the cheeses to look out for are:
Bishop Kennedy: A 'trappist' cheese originating in the medieval monasteries of France but still relatively unknown in Scotland. Full fat soft cheese, rind washed in malt whisky to produce a distinctive orangey red crust and a strong creamy taste. Runny when ripe.
Bonchester: Small coulomnier-style cheese made with unpasteurised Jersey milk. Available mainly March to December.
Bonnet: Amid, pressed goats milk cheese from small Ayrshire dairy. Similar to Inverloch (and Sanday).
Brie: Howgate Scottish Brie, traditionally made, matures to a runny sticky texture. Also Howgate Camembert.
Brodick Blue: Ewes milk blue cheese from Brodick.
Brodick: Arran blue is the cows milk version.
Caboc: (see cream cheese)
Caithness: a new mild, Danish style wax coated cheese. Also available smoked.
Cream Cheese: several versions, mostly based on revived traditional Highland recipes and rolled in oatmeal, including Caboc (Ross-shire), Howgate (Perthshire) and Lochaber-smoked. Available plain or with peppercorns, garlic or herbs.
Crowdie: a soft fresh cheese, several versions, mainly available only locally. Originally made using milk left after the cream had separated naturally. Plain or flavoured with peppercorns, garlic or herbs(Hramsa, Crannog, Gruth Dhu etc.)
Dunlop: resembles Scottish cheddar with soft texture. Mostly creamery-made in blocks on Arran and Islay but also traditionally in Ayrshire (Burns), near Dumfries and at Perth (Gowrie).
Dunsyre Blue: cows milk farmhouse blue cheese made on the same firm is Lanark Blue, with vegetarian rennet and unpasteurised milk.
Highlands and Islands:
'Drunileish' is produced on the Isle of Bute. A three month old mild cheese with a buttery flavour, uneven texture and piquant taste.
'Isle of Bute' (also produced on Bute) is a hard medium cheese with all the characteristics of a good cheddar.
'Mull of Kintyre', from the Campbeltown Creamery, is a mature cheddar with a nutty aroma and rounded taste.
'Highland', a mature cheese also from Campbeltown, has a unique, soft texture with a smooth flavour and strong aftertaste.
'Arran' cheddar, made by traditional methods, is a deliciously mellow medium to mature cheddar with a creamy soft texture.
Howgate: Established artisan farmhouse cheesemaker, originally from Howgate near Edinburgh, now in Dundee, pioneered the making in Scotland of continental cheeses including Howgate Brie, Camembert and Pentland. Other cheeses include St Andrews, Bishop Kennedy, Strathkinness and Howgate Highland Cream Cheese.
Inverloch: Pasteurised pressed goats cheese from Isle of Gigha. Coated in red wax. Also popular fruit shaped waxed cheeses.
Isle of Mull: traditional unpasteurised farmhouse cheddar from Tobermory. Cloth-bound.
Kelsae: unpasteurised pressed cheese made near Kelso from Jersey milk. Like Wenslensdale but creamier in texture and taste.
Lanark Blue: unpasteurised ewes milk cheese in the style of Roquefort.
Loch Arthur: traditional farmhouse organic cheddar from Loch Arthur near Dumfries. mull of Kintyre: small truckle of mature Scottish cheddar coated in black wax. A smoked version is also available.
The Orkney Isles: distinctive cheddar whose history goes back nearly two centuries, made in two creameries on Orkney. Several seasonal crofting cheeses sometimes available locally.
Pentland: white moulded soft cheese made in small quantities and not widely available.
St Andrews: award winning full fat, wished rind soft cheese, mild creamy, full flavoured with characteristic golden rind.
Scottish Cheddar: creamery produced cheddar now made in Galloway (Stranraer), Lockerbie, Rothesay and Campbeltown.
Stichill: unpasteurised creamy Jersey milk Cheshire style, from the Scottish Borders.
Strathkinness: award winning Scottish version of Gruyere, nearly 50 gallons of milk goes into a cheese! Matured 6-12 months. Limited availability.
Swinzie: pasteurised, pressed, ewes milk cheese from Ayrshire.
Teviotdate: vignotte style, white moulded unpasteurised cheese.