The castle of Sirok has been guarding the hills between Mátra and Bükk Mountains atop an arduous peek for 700 years. Both the renovated upper- and lower castle are open to visitors, but the most exciting part of a visit here is exploring the casemate and cave systems under the castle itself.
The castle can be accessed via a path leading from the lower entrance winding around the Castle Hill (296 m) to the gate on the northern side. Do not expect a conventional, symmetrically designed castle, but a medieval structure with an irregular floor plan, inner towers, with pitfalls and tunnels crisscrossing it.
The two main parts are the upper and the lower castle. The lower castle, built sometime later provided the main defensive line with its pentahedral Italian-style towers. The wooden exhibition hall was built recently in the surprisingly small ward, where visitors can have a glimpse at medieval life. The ward contains pits used as stables and storage as well as the 20-meter deep drinking-well can be found here, too. There was an old legend about a 20 km long tunnel connecting the Castle of Eger with the Castle of Sirok, but alas, the tunnel has yet to be found. However, what explorers have discovered was the casemate-system of the castle carved into the stone under the fortification. The builders soon discovered that the rhyolitic tuff was easy to carve and made countless underground routes and dwellings, most of which can still be explored. You can reach the upper castle through a path carved into the stone. The lord used to live in the keep in the middle of the ward. Later, a smaller keep was added to this building, probably to house the guards. The upper castle was protected by towers rising several meters high. Today these towers provide a view of the village below, Tarna Valley and Mátra.
Walking on the path around the castle, you can enjoy the view of the surroundings while marveling at the handiwork of ancient Hungarians. What make our visit unforgettable are the passageways, halls, irregular paths, remnants of wide walls, and the castle that is almost one with the stone it was built upon.
History of the castel
The valley of Tarna creek stretching between two large mountains and the volcanic peak rising above seemed to be the perfect location to build a fortification to monitor the northern route. After the Hungarian conquest of the Carpathian basin, the Aba family ruled the area. Our only information from that period is that the building of the castle started after the Mongol invasion. The first mention dates back to 1267, approximately half a century earlier than they mention the village below. It was proclaimed to be a royal castle in the 14th century. Although it changed hands several times during its history, it started blooming: the number of the castle guards was bolstered, further constructions started and the population of the area had grown. The landowner at the time established the village of Sirok-alja in 1389. Mathias Corvinus personally validated Mihály Országh’s claim to the castle, and it remained in the hands of the family for centuries onwards.
With the start of the Turkish conquest, the Castle of Sirok joined the defense system from 1550. Even though only landlords had used it until then, it became one of the strongest defensive support to the castle of Eger. The upper castle was reinforced at the start of the 1560s, and the lower castle was built. The Castle of Sirok seemed to be a strong, impregnable fortress, and even though it stood at the frontier of the Turkish conquest, they never tried attacking it. By October 1596, the fate of the castle was decided: after the fall of the castle of Eger, a gigantic Turkish force was heading towards Sirok. The defenders, seeing the hopelessness of the situation, fled the castle. The Turkish took the castle without bloodshed. The new rulers reinforced the bastions and prepared for a long stay. Visitors can find a detailed exhibition of those days in the exhibition hall of the castle and can try out the weapons and clothes of the age. Barely a century later history repeated itself, this time the imperial forces took the castle while the Turkish fled. The fate of the castle was similar to other Hungarian castles following the defeat of the Rákóczi revolution. At the start of the 18th century, the castle was blown up by imperial troops.
The ruins were on a path of decay from that point on, until archeological and restoration works started in the 20th century. The underground tunnels and halls were cleared of debris, the crumbling walls reinforced, and the lower castle excavated. The complete reconstruction of the lower castle and the building of the road leading to the castle were completed in the 2000s. The upper castle has been open to visitors since 2015. It became one of the most exciting touristic attractions, where visitors can watch the drawbridge in operation twice a day.
- If you walk towards the outer court from the castle entrance and follow the Blue (K) markers, you can reach Barát (Monk) and Apáca (Nun) Rocks. Legend has it that a monk and a nun fell in love with each other and turned into stone for their sin. In fact, the volcanic rhyolite can withstand erosion much better than the softer rocks around it; while the softer rocks eroded, these two stand out of their surroundings. Standing next to the stone formations you can enjoy a fantastic view of the castle. Walking just a few meters uphill along the path you will find a rock terrace called Törökasztal, supposedly a pagan ritual site, which also offers a great vista.
- The tour of the castle can be combined with visiting the folk museum. Don’t forget to buy a combined ticket.