A charity worker has become the first swimmer in almost 90 years to cross a 13-mile stretch of sea between two coastal beauty spots off Ireland’s north coast.
Mother-of-two Heather Clatworthy, 34, emerged from the Atlantic as only the second person to traverse the waves between the idyllic Stroove beach on Co Donegal’s Inishowen peninsula and the seaside resort of Portstewart in Co Londonderry, Northern Ireland.
An inquisitive pod of dolphins joined her on part of her challenge, jumping alongside as she powered on toward Portstewart, her childhood home.
“Two hours in I just didn’t think I was going to do it,” she said. “I just felt so ill, I was getting really beaten by the waves. They weren’t that big but it was very choppy. “I am just so pleased I did it.”
The swim was first completed in 1929 by famed English channel swimmer Mercedes Gleitze, who was asked to take on the challenge to help promote tourism on the scenic coastline.
Charity manager Heather achieved the feat in a remarkable four hours and 15 minutes, having originally predicted it would take between eight and 10 hours.
She was hugged by her husband Ian as she walked on to the rocky shore at Portstewart. Crowds of well-wishers cheered and clapped, among them her proud children Lily, five, and Basil, two.
An official from the Irish Long Distance Swimming Association monitored the attempt while volunteer sea kayakers and a support board accompanied her for every stroke.
“I just want to thank everybody for the support because I couldn’t have done it without everybody here and all the guys on the boat and kayaks,” she said. “It’s amazing.”
Heather had been training and planning for the challenge for 18 months, during which time she made contact and befriended Ms Gleitze’s 81-year-old daughter.
She was raising money for Portrush RNLI and a fund she had established to promote outdoor recreation in Portstewart.