THE lure of the 16th Big Cheese Festival drew the crowds to Caerphilly at the weekend, although numbers were down on last year.

The annual event, which started in 1998, was staged in a mixture of sunshine and showers.

Caerphilly council officials put the crowd at around 60,000 – down from more than 80,000 in 2012.

Some of the 60-plus food producers did see the benefit however, as the weather encouraged visitors into their marquees to sample all kinds of chutneys, cheese, cider and confectionery.

Beverley Robins, from Gwynt y Ddraig cider, said: “It’s been very successful, we have had wonderful sales. We are a local orchard here, so it’s like the home town supporting us.”

Andrew Shakespeare, of Caerphilly Preserves, said: “Saturday was a disappointment, but today has been much better. We did have 11 products on sale, but we have sold out of four.”

Steve Boyle, 53 and wife Linda, 57, from Caerphilly sampled some of the culinary delights.

Mr Boyle said: “We come every year. I’ve bought some chorizo and had some of the local cider.”

Former rugby star Scott Quinnell was spotted at the Caerphilly Castle site on Saturday, a day after a unique band of fancydressed participants had battled it out in the Great Cheese Race.

The fun contest saw teams carrying a wooden replica cheese around a 600-metre course, with the Swamp Donkeys winning for the fourth year running.

Re-enactments, entertainers, music, dance, falconry and a funfair made for an actionpacked weekend. Visitors from as far afield as the US and India, enjoyed free entry to the castle.

A Caerphilly council spokesman said: “The event is important to Caerphilly, it generates interest, awareness and economic benefits and it’s an experience that’s good for the community.

People come time and time again.”