Although it may be based on an earlier tradition, the modern competition of cheese rolling dates from the middle of the 20th century. The village had recently been bypassed and landlords had seen a resulting drop in their passing trade. One entrepreneurial landlord started rolling a wooden stilton outside his pub and eventually, other villagers joined him—or so the story goes.
The race was run erratically at first, but after a few years, the starting point was established outside the Bell Inn with the finish line at a crossroads at the bottom of the street. Teams consist of four men or women, all of whom have to touch the cheese at least once during the race. The competition is a straight knockout with the winning male team receiving stilton and beer and the winning female team receiving stilton and wine. There is also a separate competition for juniors and wheelchair users.
Other activities also take part in the festival, including maypole dancing, fairground rides, and the sale of traditional food and drink. But strangely enough, any cheese made in the Cambridgeshire town cannot legally be called stilton, as under the European Union’s Protected Geographical Status (PGS) regime, stilton must be made in Derbyshire, Leicestershire, or Nottinghamshire.
Know Before You Go
Stilton is approximately 110km north of London. It can be reached by car on the A15. Local buses run from Peterborough train station.