Until the late 17th Century, cheese had been a poor-tasting product made from skimmed milk (the cream being having been used to make butter).
Around 1690 a farmer's daughter and Covenanter from Ayrshire, Barbara Gilmour, returned home after a period of exile un Ulster, fleeing religious persecution. She married Mr J. Dunlop of the Hill Farm Dunlop.
This farm is half a mile from here on the right just before the village of Dunlop. The inscribed lintel stone dated 1692 is still in place at the farm.
Our family moved to Clerkland Farm in 1983. This was to be a new challenge in life for us all. Mum and Dad had a rundown house to make habitable and I was to make myself a living from a small farm. This was not to be an easy task when many farms were increasing in size to make a profit.
It was a childhood dream of mine to live and work on a farm and my love of animals and the outdoors led me to study agriculture. Whilst at college I came across the idea of milking sheep and goats and adding value to the milk by making cheese and getting a better return. This all sounded a good idea. On leaving college I landed a job on a local dairy farm. There I worked for several years gradually buying some stock and renovating the old farm buildings.
In 1989 cheesemaking started. The next year we entered the first two cheeses which we had started to make, Bonnet - a hard goats milk cheese, and Swinzie - a hard sheeps milk cheese, into the IFE London International Cheese Show.
They were awarded a gold and silver! This confirmed that what we were doing must be good. We returned home with great enthusiasm to continue cheese-making. Shortly after starting with sheep and goats, cows were introduced.
In the early days sheep and goats’ cheeses were very specialised and we found a demand for cows’ milk cheese. Being near Dunlop, the obvious cheese to make was the famous Dunlop.
So from those beginnings with no capital and a run down farm, the years of hard graft and determination have definitely paid off.
Today we are proud to have reintroduced farmhouse cheesemaking in Ayrshire, built up a herd of Ayrshire cows and a herd of goats, with their milk we have developed a range of fantastic cheeses which have won many awards over the years. The Dunlop cheese is in the final stages of PGI (Protected Geographical Indication) status.
There is now a shop and tearoom where you can buy and sample all the cheeses and learn how they are made.