THE chief executive of the Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park says the area is still off limits to visitors after slight changes were made to the lockdown measures in place across Scotland.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon announced on Sunday that the pandemic rules were being relaxed slightly to allow people in Scotland to exercise outside their homes more than once a day.

But the restrictions still say that that exercise must be taken close to home, and the advice against non-essential travel remains unchanged.

The national park's chief executive, Gordon Watson, said: "Getting outside into fresh air for exercise has huge benefits for both our physical and mental wellbeing.

"That’s even more important for people at this difficult time, so we know that the small change to Scottish Government rules to allow people to exercise outside more often close to home will make a big difference to many.

"However, the advice on non-essential travel has not changed and outdoor exercise must continue to only be carried out close to home.

"This means that people should still not be travelling to the National Park unnecessarily for day trips or outdoor activities at this time.

"Visitor facilities including car parks, toilets and campsites remain closed. This also applies to people considering travelling to Scotland from England who would still need to abide by current Scottish restrictions."

The National Park Authority's plea to the public not to visit the area has been in place since before the UK-wide lockdown restrictions were first introduced on March 23.

It was reiterated over Easter amid fears that good weather might tempt people to leave their homes.

Mr Watson continued: "We know this is difficult and that there is a temptation to venture further as lockdown restrictions change.

"However we urge everyone to follow the Scottish Government’s guidance to stay at home, stay local for exercise and reduce the risk of spreading COVID-19 to other communities and areas.

"The National Park and all that it has to offer will be waiting to welcome you in safer times.”

Argyll and Bute Council has also closed four car parks in the National Park area – at Duck Bay, Luss and Arrochar – to deter visitors, while the Kidston car park at the west end of the Helensburgh seafront has also been closed.

Mr Watson's warning this week comes after police in Argyll and West Dunbartonshire said members of the public were continuing to flout the government's advice by travelling to the area from elsewhere for non-essential purposes.

According to a statement on the area police division's Facebook page, local officers were supported by British Transport Police and by Police Scotland's own mounted branch, road policing unit and Operational Support Division, on Saturday.

Police said in their Facebook statement: "Unfortunately we continue to encounter people travelling significant distances to local beauty spots in breach of the COVID guidelines.

"To the vast majority of people who are continuing to play their part, in these difficult times, by adhering to the COVID restrictions and by following the guidelines we would like to say a huge thank you.

"Please stay safe, stay close to home and consider avoiding areas which at peak time may be busy making social distancing difficult."