The key to tender scones is handling the mixture as little as possible.
Preheat oven to 450F.
Sift flour, salt and baking soda into a large bowl, and rub the mixture with your fingertips to incorporate some air. Make a well in the center and pour in most of the buttermilk. Using one hand, with your fingers open and stiff, mix in a full circle, bringing the flour and liquid together, adding more liquid if necessary. The dough should be quite soft, but not too sticky.
Turn dough out onto a floured surface and do not knead it but gently bring it into a ball. Flatten slightly to a height of about 1 1/2 inches. Cut dough into squares or whatever shape you like. Place scones onto a baking sheet. Sprinkle with cheddar cheese. Bake 10 to 15 minutes (depending on size). When cooked they should sound hollow when tapped on the bottom. Cool on a wire rack.
About this recipe
This scone recipe is from Rachel Allen, the Martha Stewart of Ireland. Her and her husband, Isaac, made these for us at lunch. It is from her book, Favorite Food at Home with Rachel Allen (Morrow, 2006). We found them to be very tender, more like biscuits than scones.