Twenty kilometres east of Belmonte, SORTELHA rises dramatically amid an unearthly, undulating highland plateau strewn with giant glacial boulders. It’s an ancient place that, for most of its existence, has gone about its business quietly, though the wonderful rock-built fortress suggests some frontier excitement in times past. Today it presents itself as a museum piece – with some beautifully restored lodgings available – since the number of permanent residents in the old town barely struggles into double figures. From the modern quarters on the Sabugal road it’s a five-minute walk uphill (follow “Castelo” signposts) to the fascinating walled old town – or you can drive up and park outside the main gate. A tight web of cobbled lanes wends between squat stone houses with red-tiled roofs, while rough carved steps in the castle keep offer a grandstand view over the valley below and the rock-speckled hillsides beyond.

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