Jim Bishop is truly a man after my own inner child. For the past 40 years, Bishop has been building a castle in the mountains outside Rye southwest of Pueblo. He’s not having a castle built for him on his property nor does his house merely look like a castle. Bishop goes to work every day of the summer hauling and setting stones, casting iron and digging foundations for his personal fortress.
The Bishop Castle is a massive structure. At a glance, its most impressive feature is the main tower, which rises so high visitors struggle to get the whole castle in one photograph. The cast iron stairs leading to the top echo the loud clank of footsteps belonging to the bravest of Bishop’s guests.
The spiral stairs appear structurally sound but lack a seemingly important element: a handrail. Not even the windows have bars on them. Only after making this ascent does one fully understand the “No Drunks” sign at the bottom.
The top of the spire, 160 feet above the castle foundation, overlooks a vast blanket of evergreens. The San Isabel wilderness stretches in all directions. Below, Bishop can usually be seen working – always working – whether building a fire or moving materials.
Even though the second tower may be overshadowed by the first, it’s a marvel on its own. A giant cast iron sphere adorns the top. It will spin if you run around in it – if you can muster the courage, that is. The loud clang and gentle sway of the structure is unnerving, to say the least. This tower is also equipped with a bridge to nowhere. It has a definite beginning, but the end of the bridge hangs ominously in open air. Bishop insists that one day it will lead to another tower.
For now, Bishop lets visitors out onto the bridge, but has chained off the end in a feeble effort to deter visitors from completely walking the plank. The sight is just another reminder that while at the castle you’re on your own; no one’s holding your hand through this tour. In the past, the chain may not have been there at all.
However, Bishop has had enough legal trouble and lectures on safety from the state of Colorado to know the drill by now, sort of. The chain he’s added to comply with state regulations has made his bridge only slightly safer than standing at the end of the timber aboard Blackbeard’s ship.
On the second floor inside the castle is a great hall fit for a king. Large stained glass windows set in iron make up the walls at each end and the ceiling is vaulted 50 feet over the floor. Beauty and the Beast would fit in well here. Even when they don’t show, I’m sure there are some good parties. It’s here Bishop plans to build a balcony large enough to fit an orchestra for just such an occasion.
With all the legal issues Bishop has faced, it’s a wonder the castle is still open to visitors. Bishop has somehow made it work over the years and is a shining example of someone who lives his own life, does what he wants to do and accomplishes goals no one else thought possible. Jim Bishop has built something amazing for Colorado. Take the time to visit his castle, as he intended it, before it’s too late.
If You Go
Bishop Castle is 24 miles west of Interstate 25 (exit No. 74/Colorado City) on Colorado 165. It is open from sunrise to sunset year-round, weather permitting.
Mike Herbener is a documentary filmmaker in Boulder, Colorado. He has a passion for travel and adventure and finds plenty of it while exploring his home state. Find out what Mike is doing now at www.mikedigitalmedia.com.