THE idea of “getting away from it all” has never quite appealed.

Don’t get me wrong, I love an unspoilt beach and a tranquil glen as much as the next woman, but when it comes to everyday life, getting away from most of it is sufficient.

It’s a change of scene I’m after, not a spell of role-playing as a hermit.

If I ever was to be seeking a period of 24/7 alone time, I certainly wouldn’t attempt to have it on a Scottish island.

On the contrary, when I’m off the mainland I want to engage with everyone I meet.

I aim to extract a “hello” from every fellow hiker, and a wave from every other driver at a passing place. It should all feel like a joint endeavour.

I began reading Rhoda Meek’s article in yesterday’s paper with trepidation. Any time an islander writes about the impact of tourism I brace myself for the unpalatable realisation that I may be one of the very idiots they are berating.

However, Meek’s target was not the tourists themselves, but the media, “ably assisted by VisitScotland”, for painting a misleading picture of Scottish island life.

While I certainly take her point about patronising portrayals of islanders as backwards and uncultured, I’m not sure the visitors themselves should be let off the hook so easily.

It’s one thing to be drawn to visit an island by alluring images of beautiful sands and stunning turquoise sea, but it’s surely another to go ahead and book a trip without so much as glancing at a Wikipedia page about the location in question or pondering the fact that there must be residents working in the hotels, restaurants and bars there.

I don’t doubt there are people who barely register the existence of those hotels, restaurants and bars, instead stocking up a rented motorhome with supplies and heading into what they’ve been told are “remote” lands with the intention of living off their wits (and their limited driving abilities) for the duration of the visit.

I feel sorry for them, because not only will they come away feeling they were not welcome, but because they will have missed out.

Given the current crisis involving ferry transport to Mull, I was very fortunate to visit the island last month with friends, and even more fortunate that BBC Scotland had decided to treat us to its six-part series Designing The Hebrides mere weeks before our departure date.

The show stars Banjo Beale, winner of another BBC show called Interior Design Masters and a recent addition to the judging line-up on Scotland’s Home of the Year.

The title is a little misleading, as four of the six episodes are set on Mull, Beale’s adopted home, but it’s all the more charming for the fact that pretty much all of the people involved – from business owners and rugby players to painters and joiners – know each other and many are related to each other.

In each episode Beale is challenged to revamp a space – ranging from a leaky bothy to a guest bedroom to a function hall – on a tight budget, to a tight deadline and with plenty of other constraints. There’s no option to nip to B&Q if they run out of building materials halfway through, and the bothy to be upgraded on Ulva can only be accessed by quad bike or via a 90-minute hike.

READ MORE: Visitors are being sold false picture of our islands

On the plus side, there is an abundance of old furniture lying around, ripe for being upcycled by a designer with a magpie’s eye for treasure.

While the show’s focus is interiors, what makes it so engaging is the sense of community that radiates from every episode, even – perhaps especially – when the tradesmen are responding with scepticism to Beale’s more eccentric visions.

The designer and his husband Ro first came to Mull as backpackers and found work at Isle of Mull cheese farm, ultimately taking on the lease for the farm shop and cafe – a glorious vine-filled glass barn.

When he recruits some older women to weave chair backs from willow for his final project, he explains with a twinkle that he knows them from the “Woolly Wednesdays” knitting club.

Viewing Designing the Hebrides added an extra level of delight to our holiday. Thanks to some excited twitchers we were treated to a sighting of an endangered corncrake on Iona, but it was meeting these humans we felt we’d come to know that was the real treat (apologies, corncrake).

Interior design may not be everyone’s thing but surely there would be nothing to stop BBC Scotland producing other types of shows – featuring artists, business owners, environmentalists, teachers – to entertain while providing insights into modern island life, or indeed life in some of the mainland villages on the much-discussed NC500 route.

READ MORE: I drove the NC500 – these are the ten best stops you must not miss

It was seeing the beautiful creations of artist Tom Hickman – whose croft house won Scotland’s Home of the Year in 2022 – that inspired me to book my first trip to Lewis, and I’ll be reading Lesley Riddoch’s recently revised book, Riddoch on the Outer Hebrides, in the run-up with the hope of getting to know some of the people who live there before I go.

Those who lazily just assume “unspoilt” equals “uninhabited” may still be in for a surprise when they visit Scotland’s islands and find people living there, but others are likely to be inspired by learning about island life rather than simply being shown the scenery.

Whether the islands’ infrastructure can cope with both groups of potential visitors is another matter...