A MARATHON swimmer originally from West Kilbride made a piece of history last month.

Andy Donaldson became the first Scottish male to solo swim from Ireland to Scotland when he completed the North Channel crossing.

This was the latest leg in his 'oceans seven' journey - a collection of the most difficult channel swims on Earth.

Equating to almost 200km of swimming, the challenge is not for the faint-hearted - and Andy has set himself the ambitious goal of becoming the first person to finish all seven swims within a year.

He is doing so in an effort to raise money for and awareness of mental health research.

Ardrossan and Saltcoats Herald: Andy is completing the oceans seven challenge within a year to raise funds and awareness for mental health researchAndy is completing the oceans seven challenge within a year to raise funds and awareness for mental health research (Image: Andy Donaldson)

Andy grew up in West Kilbride and was a champion swimmer for North Ayrshire Swimming Club, though now lives in Australia.

He completed the 34km North Channel swim from Ireland to Scotland on September 19, and said it was an experience he wil "never forget".

Regarded by many as the hardest channel swim in the world, Andy said he still underestimated its difficulties.

He commented: "I'll openly admit I got it wrong with the cold, and I underestimated just how much it was going to impact my swimming.  I really struggled!"

Having set a new British record time for crossing the English Channel in August, it's fair to say Andy has outstanding pedigree. Though this swim was far from straightforward.

He explained: "13km in at the three hour mark, I was off pace, my muscles were ceasing up, and my stroke rate had began to plummet. I even got cramp in my left butt-cheek!

"Although I was trying my best to stay calm, I hadn't experienced this so early into a swim before. The negative thoughts started trickling through!

"'I'm in trouble, I'm not even half way, how on earth am I going to keep going to the end'!

"All the tools I knew and had used before weren't working now, and things were starting to slip out of control.

"Unsure what else to do, I turned to my crew and between breaths shouted 'muscles ceasing, feeling heavy'."

This was a decision well made, as it was his crew's response which he credited with reinvigorating him to continue on.

And continued: "In response, I received a reassuring thumbs up I'd been heard, I felt relief, and I knew that help was on the way.

"In that very moment, I was reminded that I cannot do this alone.

"Together as a team, we made changes that halted the decline and there was hope once again. For me it was now all about making it to the end

"My crew miraculously squeezed an extra six hours of swimming out of me, something which seemed near impossible not long before."

Then, at around 3.45pm, Andy would touch back down on Scottish soil, completing the crossing in an impressive 9 hours 13 minutes and 57 seconds.

Ardrossan and Saltcoats Herald: Andy pauses for reflection back on shore.Andy pauses for reflection back on shore. (Image: Andy Donaldson)

Despite all of his struggles, he was only four minutes shy of a new world record time and by finishing, Andy became the first ever Scottish male to swim solo between Ireland and Scotland.

A grateful Andy added: "Thank you to my crew. You reminded me that like life, things don't always go to plan and we need the help of others.

"You gave me hope when things seemed doomed, and got me through the tough times. I owe this one to you!"

Follow Andy’s journey via his Facebook and Instagram pages, and donate here.