RECORD numbers of visitors got a taste of history at this year's Jorvik Festival.

York's ten-day extravaganza of all things Viking came to a climactic finish on Saturday with a longship race, a bloody battle and a majestic coronation.

Attracting thousands of visitors from all over Britain, as well as tourists from Scandinavia and other parts of Europe, the final day of York Archaeological Trust's 19th festival was a big success.

Eight teams competed in the Longship River Challenge at King's Staith on Saturday. Competitors from York Rowing Club, Norway, Sweden and Northern Ireland, raced for victory in replica Viking vessels.

The race was swiftly followed by a March To Combat, which saw ferocious Nordic and Anglo-Saxon warriors march through the city from Museum Gardens to the Eye of York. The march then ended in a Clash Of The Forces battle re-enactment at the Eye of York.

Heidi Folland, PR Manager for the Jorvik Viking Festival, said the crowds watching the battle were "phenomenal".

"These were the biggest crowds we have ever had in 19 years."

The grand finale of the festival was the coronation of Viking King Erik Bloodaxe in York Minster on Saturday evening.

The Minster was packed with 800 spectators, who watched a candlelit procession of more than 100 Viking guards, Bloodaxe's Viking Queen, and her ladies-in-waiting.

The trust is now preparing for next year's 20th Jorvik festival.

Updated: 11:24 Monday, February 23, 2004