Cheddar Cheese

Cheddar, a village 10 miles northwest of Wells, is famous for its caves, and as the spiritual home of the nation's favourite cheese. Cheddar's strong, crumbly, tangy cheese is the essential ingredient in any self-respecting ploughman's lunch, and has been produced in the area since at least the 12th century; Henry II boldly proclaimed Cheddar to be 'the best cheese in Britain', and the king's accounts from 1170 record that he purchased 10,240lbs (around 4644kg) of the stuff. In the days before refrigeration, the Cheddar caves made the ideal cool store for the cheese, with a constant temperature of around 7°C. However, the powerful smell attracted rats and the practice was eventually abandoned.

These days most Cheddar cheese is made far from the village, but if you're interested in seeing how the genuine article is made, head for the Cheddar Gorge Cheese Company. You can watch as skilled staff make the golden blocks, sample some and buy pungent souvenirs.