WE’VE come a long way, haven’t we? A few decades ago, asking to be fed in a rural or Highland hotel after, say, 7pm would be met by a disapproving stare from your host, who presumably learned their customer care techniques in their previous role as a prison guard at Peterhead Prison’s D wing.

Your outrageous request would be followed by a flat no or, if you were truly blessed, the offer of a plate of barely warm chips.

Today we have a bounty of great restaurants and stylish hotels across Scotland, that are worthy of our often-breathtaking scenery, which serve local produce with a smile – and a culinary flourish.

If anything, the popularity of Scotland might be a problem, especially in these staycation times (and, yes, we know, a staycation means staying at home, in your actual house, and sleeping in your actual bed not stravaiging the length and breadth of the land but we’ll stick with that term for now).

That popularity means most of us will have read or heard or seen reports about how busy the Highlands are and about how campervans outnumber midges or something.

So I was slightly wary about heading to the north west Highlands at the tail end of the school holidays with the compass – OK, the satnav – pointing towards Skye.

We choose to avoid the A82 and the Loch Lomond rolling roadblock because, well, life is too short and headed up the A9. The new dualling from Perth to Dunkeld is looking good – although it will look even better when it actually opens. We came off at Dalwhinnie and headed to Laggan and on to Spean Bridge and from there it was on to the A87 to Kyle of Lochalash and a pleasant surprise.

Yes, the road was busier than it was back when I first visited in the days when we only had four TV channels but there’s been a healthy amount of resurfacing and the road is in fine fettle. Crossing the Skye Bridge may not have the romance of the old ferries but is still a bit of thrill as it soars over Loch Alsh.

We were staying at Duisdale House Hotel, Isle Ornsay, on the Sleat peninsula on the south of the island. It’s part of the Sonas Hotel Collection, independently owned and run by award-winning hotelier Anne Gracie Gunn and her family, who have three boutique hotels on Skye.

The 18-bed hotel was built in 1865 as a Victorian mansion and it’s twice been winner of Scottish Hotel of the Year – and it’s easy to see why.

The Duisdale is grand but not intimidating and driving up the long gravel drive I did feel a bit like a character out of Monarch of the Glen.

We were greeted in reception by Joanna, who was a fount of suggestions of things to do and see. We decided her best suggestion was to eat and drink so she arranged a car to take us the few miles to one of their sister restaurants, Toravaig.

Like the Duisdale, it’s a 2AA rosette restaurant with an intimate 26-cover dining room. The service was great – smooth and friendly – and we had an apéritif in the lounge. We decided to drink local, and I had a Talisker and my wife plumped for a Misty Isle gin, before going through to the dining room.

The food is modern Scottish, I suppose you would say, with lots of local produce cooked or prepared in imaginative ways. For starters, we had scallops with strawberry and chervil; and pigeon, which I’ve not had since I was child. It was a rare treat. For mains, it was cod with tomato and langoustine; and venison. For desserts, meadowsweet, blackcurrant and cream; and apricot, pistachio and ginger.

The highlight of it all, though, has to be the gorse butter that was served with the homemade sourdough bread. I have never tasted such tasty butter in all my days. Sometimes, it’s the little things that make all the difference to a meal. Those moments that really stick in your head.

Toravaig is a lovely choice for a nice dinner for a couple. At three courses for £55, it’s not too badly priced either for food that was as handsome to look at, as it was to eat.

At one point my wife glanced up to see a stag looking in the window. I did feel a tang of guilt over the venison, but hey ho, one thing we are not short of in Scotland is deer.

Back up the road to the Duisdale, and a spot of gazing out the bedroom’s picture window at the majestic views over the Sound of Sleat to Sandaig Bay and Knoydart on the mainland. We watched the sun set on this classic view of mountains and sea. The hotel even has five private moorings if you fancy bringing your yacht.

Our ensuite room was a good-size with a desk, perhaps in case one felt inspired by the views to pen a few lines of poetry, with a quality Italian coffee making machine.

The hotel is stylish, comfortable and friendly – with plenty of interesting design details such as original fireplaces and contemporary tweed fabrics. It’s never stuffy or over-formal.

The hotel is dog friendly and they are building a couple of lodges in the grounds, taking advantage of the views over the garden and to the Sound of Sleat. The lodges feature an integrated music system, dimmable lights and a flame effect fireplace, allowing guests to create their own atmosphere, as well as a feature bath.

The next morning, after a full Scottish and an eggs Benedict, we set off on a whistle-stop tour of the island.

The first surprise is Broadford – it’s not quite Las Vegas but it’s certainly grown in the last 30 years, with coffee stops and interesting-looking shops and the big Co-op has also got a petrol station.

Now, while some folk moan about the increase in tourists to Scotland, it does almost guarantee good hotels, shops and eating out places. It’s a trade off I’m happy to take.

We stopped at the Old Man of Storr and wandered up the hill. It is busy but still as spectacular as ever. It’s worth noting, you’ll sometimes see photos of car and campervans parked all along that road – these probably were taken before the car park was enhanced.

There’s decent toilets there too. From there, we went to Portree, home to a great Scandi-style coffee shop called Birch in Bayfied Road, then onto Glen Brittle and the Fairy Pools, which we caught around tea-time so avoided the mass of visitors.

We were back at the Duisdale for dinner. There are two dining options here and the menu follows the same modern Scottish philosophy as Toravaig. It’s a busy, bustling place, with a nice buzz.

Duisdale House Hotel, Isle Ornsay, Sleat, Skye IV43 8QW. B&B starts at £289 per room, per night. See https://skyehotel.co.uk or call 01471 833202