Posted: 23/08/2020

Andy Swinscoe’s five alternative cheeses for the festive cheeseboard

Andy Swinscoe of The Courtyard Dairy suggests some alternative varieties to carry the Christmas cheeseboard beyond the classic Stilton and cheddar.

Andy Swinscoe picks five alternative cheeses for the festive cheeseboard
Cheese-lover Andy at The Courtyard Dairy


As new as you can get! Renowned cheese-maker Martin Gott bought the Innes goat herd in May as they retired due to coronavirus. Now, as well as his brilliant sheep’s milk cheese he makes a small range of goats’ cheeses on his farm. Holbrook is named after the inspirational late British cheese-maker Mary Holbrook – Martin carried out his apprenticeship there many years ago. This hard goats’ cheese has the sweet nuttiness of a Manchego, underpinned by a rich herbal note. An excellent story, pedigree and flavour – worth seeking out.


The Hattan family have some of the very last old-fashioned Northern Dairy Shorthorn cattle in the world. These 12 cows are fed and milked only in the summer on their Yorkshire Dales wildflower meadows. These factors give an unparalleled richness to their cheese.

Following old Dales recipes, the cheese has the fresh crumbliness of a Wensleydale but the rich depth of flavour akin to the mountain cheeses of France.


More well-known for his Rollright cheese, David Jowett also makes Ashcombe at Chedworth Farm in Gloucestershire.

With echoes of the French cheese Morbier – including the ash line through the middle – it has that supple, yogurty texture and buttery, hazelnut notes. A perfect winter cheese. 

Cais na Tire

There is a reason this cheese has a pedigree of awards. But, outside of Southern Ireland it is rarely found. Pity, as it is a delight. Made by Barry and Lorraine on their small farm (100 sheep) in County Tipperary, at six months old it develops rich, toasty and caramel notes as the sweetness of the sheep’s milk starts to display, like the finest aged Pecorino. 

Darling Blue

Famous for her Doddington and Berwick Edge cheese, Maggie Maxwell’s blue cheese is little known and made in much smaller quantities. For those who stock it, however, it soon becomes a best seller. Aged for three months, it is nothing short of outstanding.

It has a firm texture and luxurious biscuity-blue note.

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