PEOPLE are being urged not to visit Loch Lomond and the surrounding areas this weekend – despite the easing of some of Scotland's lockdown restrictions.

The plea comes from the Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park Authority – who say that the area is "not yet ready for large numbers of visitors" and have warned that all visitor facilities, including car parks, will remain closed until further notice.

In her briefing on Thursday outlining how some lockdown limits are being eased from today, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said people should not be travelling long distances, and should be avoiding popular beauty spots and crowded places.

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Ms Sturgeon said that "crowds bring more risk than we judge is acceptable or safe at this point".

The park authority says that all visitor facilities and services around the National Park will remain closed this weekend, including the park authority's car parks, public toilets, visitor centres, the Duncan Mills Memorial Slipway on Loch Lomond, and campsites.

Gordon Watson, chief executive of the Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park, said: “I know how much people are missing the National Park and the great outdoors right now and that for many this is their go-to place.

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"It’s easy to see why and that the gradual easing of lockdown restrictions means that the idea of heading straight out to your favourite places to enjoy your favourite activities is incredibly tempting.

“But we must all remember that we are only in the first phase of some restrictions lifting and that the advice is not to travel more than five miles from home for your exercise or recreation activities.

“We also need people to recognise that the National Park has been on lockdown too with visitor sites, facilities and many businesses closed.

"These are remaining closed for now in keeping with Scottish Government guidance.

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“That means the National Park is not ready, nor is the time right, for large numbers of visitors to arrive at popular places, many right on the doorstep of small rural communities.

“While more outdoor activities are now allowed, if the idea of a day trip or a hill walk or loch activity is on your mind this week please think very carefully about whether it is the right thing to do.

"The activity itself may be allowed but we are urging people to think through the other facilities you would need which are not yet available for you to use.

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”There is also the pressure you could be putting on local and emergency services. That includes activities where there is a risk of needing emergency rescue services if people get into difficulties. Please consider waiting a little longer.

“We all want to move out of lockdown but we need to do this safely, together and we all have a part to play in that.”

The park authority says it is working with "a number of key partners", including Police Scotland, councils, Transport Scotland and Forestry and Land Scotland to coordinate information and plan a phased reopening of visitor facilities – though it says that this will be "a gradual process".

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Mr Watson added: “We are working together with our partners on plans so we are ready to open and operate other visitor facilities safely when the time is right but this will only happen gradually and in line with national guidance.

"Our priority is to consider the safety of those using facilities, those working in and around them and the communities nearby them.

"Everything will reopen in time but we are urging people to be patient for now.”

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