The Coronavirus lockdown looked to be an utter catastrophe for our artisan cheesemakers. 70-90 per cent of their business disappeared overnight as restaurants, cafes, pubs, and farmers markets closed, leaving cheese maturing stores overfilled, and a flush of spring milk with nowhere to go. Cows, sheep, and goats can’t be furloughed.

But it’s beginning to look as if craft cheesemakers may yet snatch victory from the jaws of defeat. As a measure of their sheer determination, and the public’s widespread desire for something better than the nondescript, industrial slab cheeses stacked on supermarket shelves, they’ve rapidly mobilised to bump up retail sales.

Ironically, the acute trauma of the specialist cheese industry has created a novel state of affairs. If you’re a lover of unique and special handmade cheeses, it’s never been easier to buy them.

Up and down the land, lockdown shoppers are ordering boxes of cheese direct from the makers, or through dairies that retail a list of specialist cheeses, and being totally delighted with the contents. Cheese boxes have become an easy Coronavirus gift, a way of saying to family and friends: “I’m still thinking of you, even though I can’t hug you”. And this phenomenon could change our cheese buying habits forever. There’s a world of cheese pleasure beyond Cathedral City cheddar. Once entered, there’s no going back.

There’s been a flurry of promising activity around artisan cheese since the risk to this small industry was highlighted, notably, the British Cheese Weekender event next weekend (8-10 May). This initiative from the Specialist Cheesemakers Association, the Academy of Cheese, and the Guild of Fine Food, will be a virtual festival, celebrating the exciting diversity of cheeses made by our small producers, and highlighting the crisis they face. It will include free online tastings by top cheese experts, cheese masterclasses, virtual farm tours, and cheese pub quizzes. The idea is that you buy some cheese online, or from retailers, beforehand, and then enjoy the tastings in a virtual setting.

The Cheese Weekender promises to be fun, but its important underlying message is serious. Those of us who want Scotland and the wider UK to retain its once flourishing artisan cheeses must show our support for the people who put them on our tables. We need to buy from them now, whether that’s online direct from the producers and specialist retailers, or from local shops and farm shops that are still open. If you’re up for this, try to include some soft and blue cheeses in your order. Sales of these have particularly suffered because they have a shorter shelf life.

Restaurants look likely to be the last businesses to come out of lockdown, so it’s no exaggeration to say that for the time being, the livelihoods of our specialist cheesemakers are in the hands of ordinary people who appreciate good cheese. Let’s show them we love them.

Below are some great sources for artisan cheeses, delivered to your door:

Courtyard Dairy

Consummate cheesemongers who know the background to the cheeses they sell, and who keep and pack them beautifully. The top online site for a wide selection of cheeses sourced from more than one cheesemaker.

Specialist Cheesemakers Association

A UK-wide, updated list of cheesemakers who sell direct to the public.

The Ethical Dairy

Rainton Tomme, Carrick, Laganory and Fleet Valley Blue, made from organic milk, produced by a farmer who has pioneered the highest standards of dairy cow welfare.

Isle of Mull cheddar

For the celebrated, eponymous raw milk cheddar and Hebridean Blue

St Andrews Cheese Company

Raw milk cheeses, Anster and St Andrews Farmhouse, made using the milk from their single source herd of home-bred cows.


Errington Cheese

Try their new goats cheeses- Bonnington Linn, Tinto, Biggar Blue, and stunning goat’s milk curd- as well as enduring old favourites like Lanark Blue and Corra Linn.

Cambus O’May

Raw milk cheeses, including Lochnagar and Ardmore,

made in small batches and traditionally matured. Email orders or available via the North East Food Hub