Sabile Hillfort was established on the right-hand slope of the River Abava valley, on a very advantageous site – a headland with natural obstacles offering protection from three sides, the open side being fortified with a ditch and bank.
Two major periods may be distinguished in the habitation of this early town: the 11th–13th century, corresponding to the time of occupation of Sabile Hillfort, and the 14th–17th century, when the district was already dependent on the German feudal lords, who shifted the centre of the town to a new site, right on the bank of the River Abava.
Also discovered in the town site were the remains of several tens of buildings, ovens and hearths, and nine pits. More than 1200 artefacts were recovered, testifying to the occupations of the ancient people of Sabile – various crafts, trade and agriculture – and telling of their everyday life and their battles against various invaders. In ethnic terms, the early town of Sabile may be regarded as having been inhabited during the first period by a Finnic group, the Livs, although certain artefacts are characteristic of Livs acculturated by the Couronians, while the second phase of habitation is dominated by finds characteristic of the Couronians.
As early as 1868, the newspaper Latviešu Avīzes published a legend about Sabile hillfort. It is said to have been the home of a princess who promised to marry whoever was able to ride up the hill. One man said he would accomplish this, but asked that the horse first be allowed to see the castle rooms. When the horse was led in, it spit sulphur and fire, and the castle burned down along with the princess. Money that was left after this was used to build the first church in Sabile.