Best places to eat and buy cheese in Europe: Top 10

GRUYERES, SWITZERLAND

Ridiculously lovely, flower-decked Gruyeres is one of Europe's best-preserved fortified medieval villages, with its single cobbled street leading up to a small castle with splendid outlooks over lush, cow-chewed meadows.

Creamy, nutty gruyere, Switzerland's most famous cheese, is a core ingredient of fondue, which is dished up in many of the village's restaurants. A two-hour Cheesemakers Path takes you past gruyere producers and into gorgeous pre-alpine countryside. See la-gruyere.ch

PARMA, ITALY

Parma gives its name to parmigiano reggiano, the original parmesan that must be produced within 25 kilometres of its farms. Several producers offer factory tours that take you through the production process from milk to giant golden wheels.

The town has gracious renaissance heritage and a classic music scene associated with former resident Giuseppe Verdi, and sits in the centre of Emilia-Romagna, Italy's best food region. See emiliaromagnaturismo.it

ROQUEFORT, FRANCE

The village of Roquefort-sur-Soulzon in south-west France is surrounded by caves in which France's most famous blue cheese has been matured since a royal monopoly was granted in 1411.

Several roquefort producers offer tours, tastings and the sight of cellared cheese rounds covered in green mould. You can also visit a farm and see sheep being milked. The region has beautiful villages, tumbledown castles and Pyrenees hiking. See tourisme-aveyron.com

CHEDDAR, BRITAIN

The Somerset village that gives its name to the world's most versatile and most popular cheese has only one cheesemaker, where you can drop in at the visitor centre and working dairy.

The biggest attraction is Cheddar Gorge, with its rugged cliff walks and stalactite-draped caves in which cheddar was once matured. Historically, cheddar had to be produced within 30 miles of Wells, a nearby medieval cathedral city. See visitsomerset.co.uk

LA MANCHA, SPAIN

This central Spanish region south of Madrid is a high, arid plateau dotted with windmills, wheat fields and wandering sheep, associated with the fictional figure of Don Quixote.

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Top sights are the splendid fortified town and Roman remains of Cuenca, and the holy city of Toledo. The region gives its name to Spain's mild, pale-yellow manchego sheep's cheese, with several farms offering tours that explain the cheese-making process. See turismocastillalamancha.es

PAG, CROATIA

Milky rounds of sheep's cheese known as sir – similar to manchego or pecorino – are found on every table at breakfast time in Croatia.

Its most famous variety, paski sir, comes from Pag island and derives its flavour from the wild sage eaten by Pag sheep. It's especially delicious mixed with Pag honey and served in pancakes. The scenic island is also worth visiting for its lively summer party scene. See croatia.hr

EDAM, NETHERLANDS

Charming Edam near Amsterdam is connected to equally pretty Volendam a 30-minute walk across the polders. It became rich on maritime trade and is full of smug churches and gabled brick houses.

Although edam cheese is now made all over the Netherlands, it was traditionally exported from this eponymous town, which still holds a weekly summer cheese market. The distinctive rind is orange for the domestic market, red for export. See vvv-edam.nl

CAMEMBERT, FRANCE

Northern France has two famous cheese destinations, Camembert town and the Brie region, but the former wins for its lush Normandy setting, timber-frame farmyards, orchards and cheesy attractions, including a museum, the historic Manoir de Beaumoncel​ which first developed camembert in 1791, and La Heronniere, the last remaining farm to produce camembert the traditional hand-made way. In the surrounds, you'll find several lovely chateaux and country walks. See normandie-tourisme.fr

EMMENTAL, SWITZERLAND

Emmental is one of those impossibly lovely, overlooked corners of Switzerland featuring rolling farmland and pine forest with views to the Bernese Alps in the background. It's a great destination for cycling and walking.

The very traditional region maintains its folk culture and still makes alpine horns – plus emmental cheese, the big holes in which form our stereotype of Swiss cheeses. The Emmental Show Dairy in Affoltern runs through the process. See bern.com

GORGONZOLA, ITALY

This small town, now within Milan's metropolitan region, has probably been making cheese since the eighth century, though today Italy's best-known blue cheese is produced in a larger surrounding area.

The town is pleasant with parks and neoclassical churches, and has cycling paths along the Martesana Canal, which links it to Milan. In September, an annual festival celebrates gorgonzola cheese through cooking lessons, exhibitions and restaurant menus. See in-lombardia.it

The writer has travelled as a guest of numerous tourism offices.

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