Although the area has a significant religious and cultural value, it is also worth visiting it for its magnificent natural beauty.
The famous Hermit Caves on the hillside above the new Pilgrim Centre used to give shelter to hermits from the 13th century. the last hermit of Szentkút, Jozafát Dobát died in 1767. A few minute walk from the liturgical area can take us to the Saint Ladislaus Spring.
A steep path behind the priory leads up to the Hermit Caves on the hillside. These caves were carved into the soft sandstone by the local hermits at the end of the 18th century. This is one of the largest hermit cave complexes in Hungary, and there is a magnificent view from the rest area near the caves over the valley.
Saint Ladislaus Spring
It is worth taking a short walk in the Szentkúti-Patak Valley too. There is a pleasant riverside path that takes you to a canyon which is also indicated by a sign. On your right, you can find the Saint Ladislaus Gorge (Szent László-hasadék) where, according to the legend, Saint Ladislaus had a great leap with his horse. It is advisable to walk carefully in the short, meandering and narrow canyon. Not far from the gorge, the valley widens a bit, and a little wooden bridge can take you over to Mária-forrás (Holy Mary Spring). A bench to rest and a rain shelter can also be found there. Walking a few feet further down the valley from here, you get to a trio of springs.
The village of Somoskő can be found near the Slovak border with a castle over it on a 526 metre high basalt hill. This beautifully renovated castle belongs to Slovakia today, but it is easily accessible from the Hungarian side as well. It was built by the Kacsics family in 1290, and it belonged to, among others, Máté Csák and Róbert Károly. It was also in the possession of the Széchenyi family for a long time, but they had to mortgage it because of their lavish lifestyle, so the Losonczy family became its new owner. Legend has it that Bálint Balassi, the famous Hungarian poet, often visited Anna Losonczy here in the 1570s, who was the muse for the well-known Júlia-poems. The castle was burnt down on the commission of the Viennese after 1711, but the walls did not become completely destroyed.
Somoskő is especially recommended for family trips from the shrine since it has a Wildlife Park and an Adventure Park for kids, and the walking route is relatively easy.
On the right side of the castle, you can find a world-renowned sight: a basalt cascade where the basalt flowing out of the hill got petrified in the form of arched columns. There are only three more similar natural formations over the world, so this is a geological rarity. When the basalt cooled down, slender pentagonal and hexagonal columns were formed, which can reach 9 metres at places. A part of these was also used for the building of the Somoskő castle.
A 40-minute drive from the shrine can take you to Hollókő.
This village is a World Heritage site, and it can be found in the middle of Nógrád county in the Cserhát Hills. By car, it can be accessed from Szécsény on road 22, or on road 21 leaving the main road before Pásztó. Hollókő is the only village of Hungary that is recognised as a World Heritage site together with its natural surroundings. The local people speak a characteristic dialect called “palóc”, and they proudly wear their richly embellished folk costumes. Cottages turned into holiday homes await tourists planning to stay longer in the Old Village.
Some of the main sights include the Village Museum, traditional cottages, the Weaving Cottage, and a wood-carving exhibition as well. The Hollókő Castle is only a short walk from the village. Many programs, restaurants, and gift shops are available for visitors.
On your way to or from Mátraverebély-Szentkút, it is worth turning off road 21 to visit Pásztó.
In the centre of Pásztó, a town in Nógrád county in the Zagyva Valley, there are some enchanting traditional buildings. The Medieval centre of this small town used to be situated on today’s Múzeum Square, and most of the old buildings surviving here give place to the exhibitions of the Pásztó Museum.
Castle of Salgó
To the North of Salgótarján, the only Medieval sight of the town, the ruins of the Castle of Salgó can be found on the top of a 625 metres high rock. The original castle might have consisted of the Old Tower on the top of the hill and the palace wing on the lower part of the hill. This was later completed with a crescent shape lower castle in the course of the centuries.