About Ribblesdale Cheese
We are an award winning artisan cheese maker based in the beautiful market town of Hawes, in the Yorkshire Dales.
We specialise in goat cheese and a little sheep cheese and are an unashamedly micro dairy, where everything is very hands on and we lavish love, care and attention on our cheeses.
We are proud to be part of the growing demand for good quality artisan goat cheese, from small boutique producers and that people recognise both quality and the nutritional benefits. For many, goat and ewe’s milk cheese can be good alternatives to cow’s milk cheeses.
Our cheeses include traditional British, continental Manchego and Gouda styles, and of course, our luscious goat curd and pretty goat ash logs.
Where to Find Us
We can be found in good cheese shops, delis and farm shops; our customers have included Booths, Harvey Nicks, Selfridges. Fortnum & Mason, Waitrose, Ocado, Bettys of Harrogate and Fodder. Our cheese has been exported to the USA, the Falklands, Japan and the Middle East.
Our cheese has been eaten on both the Orient Express and more recently, The Bluebell. We are proud to have be chosen by chefs such as Tommy Banks and Sven-Hanson Brit who used our luscious goat curd in their fine dining meal at home menus.
The business is headed up by Iona who has become a second generation cheese maker, following in the footsteps of her uncle, Iain Hill.
My Uncle Iain at a Meet the Buyer event
Ribblesdale Cheese was formed in 1978 by my uncle, Iain Hill, a tall, charismatic Yorkshire man through and through, who moved to the Yorkshire Dales in 1974 after engineering a redundancy payment from Lewis’ where he was a store manager. His initial idea, after buying a dilapidated farm house, was to start an outdoor centre for inner city children. This did not work out. He tried a few other ideas with little success, until his mother, my grandmother who was by then living with my uncle and his children, gave him some money with strict instructions to ‘do something useful’ with it.
So, (much to Grandma Hill’s dismay) he bought a pair of goats and named them Victoria and Maude after his mother. Grandma Hill, Victoria Maude, was not impressed. He did not realise that they were in kid and in short order Victoria and Maude produced two fine offspring and milk. Iain’s drinking buddy, the local vet suggested that he make cheese and that is how we started. Iain built up the herd to around 100 that lived in a barn opposite the farm house; they were very naughty and kept escaping, causing much chaos and mayhem around the surrounding fields and annoyance to neighbouring farmers.
We are called Ribblesdale Cheese because Iain first made cheese in his farm house, a mile away from the Ribblehead viaduct and the source of the River Ribble.
Iain perfected his cheese craft and built a loyal local following, progressing to local and then national wholesale outlets. Goat cheese was a relatively new and different phenomenon in the 1980s, where cow’s cheese was the norm and many people – still to this day – prefer not to eat goat cheese as they are often reminded of the sometimes smelly, rustic style goat cheese available in days gone by; fortunately, public taste is changing and many now appreciate the taste, variety and health benefits associated with goat cheese.
Eventually, due to arthritis, Iain sold the goats and bought in the goat milk and started to make cheese himself at other cheese maker’s premises as his initial home dairy became too small; carrying kits of goat milk through the house was not very practical. Sadly, Iain died in 2006 and was succeeded by his niece, Iona, (that’s me!) who knew absolutely nothing about cheese or cheese making. It has been a steep learning curve!
Iona is Yorkshire born and bred and has lived in the Yorkshire Dales since November 2006. Iona is a qualified Chartered Accountant by background and this financial footing has helped her tremendously in updating and changing the business to where we are today.
She is a largely self-taught cheese maker and loves nothing more than developing new recipes, tweaking old ones and still very much enjoys cheese making. She says that each make is different, there are always variables, and appreciates that she continues to learn new things, cheesy nuances every make. Iona hopes that her uncle Iain would be pleased and proud of where we are today as this is his legacy.
Iona enjoys getting to know and talking with other cheese makers, hence the series of blog posts profiling other small, artisan cheese makers. She is proud to be a judge at the International Cheese Awards since 2013.
Iona is a keen walker, enjoying the countryside of the surrounding Yorkshire Dales and animal lover.
An interview with by The East London Cheese Company with Iona here.