I recently spent a few nights in West Yorkshire exploring the local areas. One of those areas was the lovely town of Hawes, particularly because of the famous Yorkshire Wensleydale Cheese Factory. I’m a huge cheese fan so I wasn’t going to pass up the opportunity to have a nosy around a popular factory and try some samples! Since we were staying in Settle, it took just over an hour to get there, after driving down plenty of country, winding, fast roads. The drive itself was pretty thrilling! At least it was for me being the driver, for the passenger however – Ed was holding on very tightly.
Once we arrived in Hawes, it was nearly lunch time so we stopped for what was a much bigger meal than we’d expected at the Penny Garth Cafe. The meal was lovely and not so expensive. I was definitely full afterwards and glad to be walking it off. I needed to make some space for the cheese samples!
Entrance to the Cheese Making Experience was only £3.95 for adults (£2.45 for children) which allows you to visit the small museum, watch a cheese making demonstration, watch a talk about how they make butter, learn about the links with Wallace and Gromit and get a sneak peak into the factory itself. Of course, afterwards you can go and sample all the cheeses they have on offer, purchase some cheesy merchandise, and have some food and drink at either their Calvert’s restaurant or 1897 coffee shop.
First on the list of things to see at the factory is the museum which is only small and we were able to look around it in a matter of minutes. It definitely didn’t feel like there was much to see there and it clearly wasn’t the main event, which I guess are the demonstrations. Still, it was a nice touch to see some old cheese making equipment and things that would have been in a traditional farmhouse.
Next stop was the cheese making demonstration that lasted around 15 minutes. One of their cheese experts uses 8 pints of milk to create 500g of Wensleydale cheese right in front of your eyes. Of course the actual process takes much longer than 15 minutes as the guy giving the demonstration puts in extra ingredients to speed up the process rendering the cheese inedible for customers but it was interesting to see how it is done by hand. He had a very dry sense of humour and got the kids involved plenty of times. Even Ed was nodding along and trying to shout out answers!
Then it was time for the butter demonstration which I didn’t really get to see because I’m small and there was a larger group of people. It was still an interesting talk and the walls surrounding had plenty of random cheese facts so I found myself reading those. Around the corner was small section that explained the Wallace and Gromit phenomenon to do with Wensleydale cheese. Gotta love a bit o’ Wensleydale, Gromit! It was lovely to see as it was always a big part of my childhood. I’m not a big fan of animated movies but I have a soft spot for Wallace and Gromit.
There were plenty of interactive opportunities for children, including a mini movie area to watch A Grand Day Out, of course the photo opportunity, interactive games, a wooden milk van to play in, and touch screen video displays to learn more about the process of making cheese (it was all basically covered in the demonstrations but just in case you missed anything).
You can also see into the main factory itself but we went at the weekend so nothing was on. If you want to see things in action, I’d suggest going on a week day!
Since we’d already had lunch, there were no plans to stay for the cafe or restaurant but nothing was going to stop us from getting some free samples! They were all in a separate refrigerated room just off the shop. You may need your coat on. There is basically three rows of cheese sample baskets and we tried one of everything. You can buy the cheese as there are piles of them behind each basket but I wasn’t going to pick any up until I’d tried them all, which required me going around again oh dear. In the end I chose the wensleydale Blue and Ed chose the roast garlic and herb wensleydale. Both were delicious and did not last long at all.
It was a great day out, grand if I might say so! I’d love to go back and buy some more cheese. Since I don’t live close enough to do that, I’ll have to deal with heading to the supermarket. Hawes, the town itself, though is lovely and there is another museum nearby which we didn’t get chance to visit. Perhaps another visit to the town is needed.