Sortelha used to be part of the important defensive line of frontier castles, mostly erected or rebuilt on ‘castro’ sites of the ancient Iberian civilisations. Its name is derived from the configuration of the land in rugged crags encircling the village in the shape of a ring (sortija, in Spanish).
The castle entrance is through a Gothic doorway, above which there is a balcony (Varanda de Pilatos) with apertures through which the medieval guards would hurl all kinds of missiles, such as boiling oil, at their attackers. Notice also the fine pillory topped by the armillary sphere, the symbol of D.
Manuel I, and the building that used to be the Council Hall, from the same period. In another doorpost, facing west, the two slits in the stone represent metric measures (the larger one is a vara and the smaller one a côvado), used by medieval tradesmen for their calculations.
The charm of this village lies in its medieval atmosphere. All the houses, made of granite and mostly one-storey, are built on rock and blend into the topography of the terrain.