ON the Isle of Harris, the Luskentyre beach car park is gridlocked. A lorry needing to turn at the end of this narrow single-track road doesn’t have a hope.

The driver has simply got out and is sitting in the sun. His schedule, and no doubt the rest of his day, is in tatters.

The other occupants of the car park, promised empty and stunning sands bereft of another living soul, find themselves being honked at by a local crofter, on their last nerve and boxed in by many others with parking skills worse than their own.

Up the road, a resident is distraught that this morning’s funeral procession couldn’t reach the graveyard due to all the tourist vehicles.

The locals are angry and the visitors are confused. Their dream of escaping reality on a remote wilderness holiday in the Scottish islands is just that, a dream, and the villains of the piece are the media, ably assisted by VisitScotland.

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There are too many examples to count of articles extolling the virtues of the Highlands and islands for cleansings of the soul and voyages of personal discovery. Glossy and appealing, these stories are layered upon marketing images of deserted landscapes, golden sands, unobstructed views and plentiful wildlife. The enthusiasm for this narrative borders on an Enlightenment-esque obsession in some quarters.

Unfortunately, these empty, picture-postcard island images churned out by so many writers and media producers are actively damaging, and not just for residents. By failing to mention the communities living in these beautiful places, they also fail to set expectations correctly for visitors.

They aren’t the ones on a holiday of a lifetime left wondering why the locals are so angry. They are not the ones directing traffic in a black tie.

No-one can deny that the promise of the empty island idyll is appealing, but what is not promised – indeed what is rarely mentioned – are the locals trying to get to work, the livestock to be considered, the doctor in a hurry, the parents collecting kids from school, the blind corners, the passing places, the etiquette surrounding single-track roads, the volunteer coastguard and firefighters, or the people rushing to an appointment.

The truth is that islands are not empty wildernesses. They are instead filled with people living their lives. This fact too often comes as a surprise.

Nowhere was the failure to understand island lives more evident than in a recent Guardian article, now heavily re-edited, which somehow managed to suggest that the musical excitement generated by a DJ coming to Harris was unheard of. The wealth of island musical talent, the ceilidhs, the dances … all invisible to the eye of the outsider.

That same article re-used tropes of the friendly yet bemused islander poking their head out of the door to see what was going on –blinking into the dazzling lights of modernity.

These depictions are not helpful. Rather, they are lazy and harmful. Islanders are not quaint or twee or backward. They are well educated and well travelled. Most of all, they are very well connected and don’t suffer fools gladly.

Islands and islanders are often more connected than they are given credit for and therefore, of all the words used to describe the islands, the most common and the least helpful is “remote”.

Wrapped in so many assumptions – not least those of wilderness and othering – “remote” allows those looking in to get away with not venturing beyond the surface.

The articles and images show the hotels but not the staff serving the coffee or cleaning the rooms. They swoon over the flowers and the machairs but we are never shown the muddy tractor, the exhausted crofter and the struggles of winter.

Lobster and crab look up from lovingly plated dishes but we don’t hear about the fishermen and their smelly wellies.

Even the carefully crafted images of adventurous southerners striding out in Skye cut out the busy roads around them. And yes, the reality might be less pretty but it is arguably more interesting.

Imagine if these articles banned the word “remote” and relegated the view to no more than a supporting character. If the research made it as far as discovering that a croft is a piece of land, rather than a house.

If the words and images spoke of the stories of a place, diving deep into the heritage and history of a location, pausing only momentarily to mention the beach.

If they spelled out the Gaelic names and explained their significance. If writers met with locals to peek below the surface of the landscape – discussing the boggy bits and the riptides, the currents and the quicksand. What if they embraced the local pub, chatted with musicians and began to understand the wry humour that runs through the islands like rock.

How much richer their articles would be and by extension, how much better the visitors’ understanding of island life.