In the southwest corner of Vas County you can find this wonderful land with forests and meadows where guardians were settled during the Hungarian conquest. Its name derives from these: Őrség (in English: Guard or Watch post).
Since 1st March 2002 the Őrség National Park Directoate has been supervising the preservation of natural, ethnographical, culture-historical values which can be found on this wonderful land. The Őrség National Park consists of the Őrség, Vend country, the unregulated valley of River Rába, the Inner-Őrség and the neighbourhood of Szentgyörgy Valley. All together it covers 44 townships, on about 44.000 acres, whereof 3086 acres are particularly protected. The whole territory of the national park is a Natura 2000 area under European Union-wide Protection.
This land is the westernmost part of our country, where hills and valleys engraved by brooks, deciduous forests and pinewoods, fresh and green meadows, marshlands preserving plants from the ice age, and crystal clean spring-heads and brooks vary. The silence and the fresh air, the cultural traditions and customs what are reserved in an unchanged way, the goods of the self-supportive peasant farming attract the visitors.
Due to the high annual precipitation this area is rich in springs and brooks. One of the most significant rivers of the territory is the Zala (Szala), which springs north from Szalafő and flows through the Őrség. The other one is the Kerka joining into River Mura. On the North border of the National Park mainly the River Rába flows which is rough water, uncontrolled river.
63% of the Őrség is covered by woods and forests, which is 3,5 times more than the nationwide average, in this way their nature protection, economic and landscape forming role is determinative.
The remains of the cold climate after the ice-age are the sphagnum moors and moor fields, in the Őrség and Vend-country can be found the most of these in the country. Due to the much residue and high precipitation this area is the richest in mushrooms nationwide. You can find the delicious bolete, yellow chanterelle and various species of russula. Beside the well-known mushroom species real specialities can be found as well, as the Hygrocybe and Hygrophorus fungus which is the peculiarity of the Alps.
The fauna shows a variable picture as well. The richest butterfly fauna of the country live in this territory. On the land you can meet all the twelve frog species and all the four tailed amphibian (newt) species of Hungary here. Along the larger waters the strictly protected otter can be found. The valuable bird species of the countryside are the black stork, the honey-buzzard, the corncrake, the blue pigeon, the crossbill, the bullfinch and the firecrest. The game population is significant as well, wild-boar, roe and red deer also occurs there.
Őrség is also rich in folk architectural and cultural-historical relics. The settlement structure shows a unique picture, these are the so-called ‘szeres’ settlements. The ‘szerek’ are groups of houses built on the hill top, which structure comes from the time of Hungarian conquest. The most well-known house types are the smoky-kitchen houses, furthermore the so called rounded houses. These buildings can be seen at their original place and environment in Szalafő-Pityerszer at the Őrség Folk Monument Ensembles. Belfries also count as folk architecture masterpieces.
The Vend-country is characterized by the so-called sparse settlement structure. Wonderful examples for this are Kétvölgy, Orfalu and Apátistvánfalva settlements.
Building stone castles was not typical in the historical Őrség, the medieval fortress-type churches took over their role. Őriszentpéter and Velemér ancient monument churches are nice examples for these relics.