An inconspicuous sign on Highway 96 between Westcliffe and Wetmore in the Wet Mountains signals the turn-off to Bishop Castle. The intrigue of a castle in Southern Colorado is certainly enough to make many visitors take the brief detour—and what’s found just a few miles down the road is certainly worth experiencing.
Billed by Atlas Obscura as perhaps “the largest one-man architecture project in the world,” Bishop Castle can be wholly attributed to Jim Bishop, a man whose decades-long drive to design his own castle only compares in intensity to his offbeat opinions. (Note: Many of Bishop’s political stances are posted around the property. Along with the construction of that castle, which may not be entirely up to code, parents should think twice before bringing young children.)
The castle itself has been in development by Bishop and his family for nearly 50 years. Now in his 70s and just past a battle with cancer, Jim is largely the only one leading the charge these days and can often be found hand-hauling rocks around on the property. In a 2016 interview with The Colorado Springs Gazette, Jim said he is driven to continue the quest by many reasons—with one large one being the on-site death of his 4-year-old son, Roy, in the 1980s.
With such a history, logical room planning has long since given way to out-of-place staircases and rooms that compose the 16 stories. The effect is something of a fun-house for adults—as you never know what you’ll find around the next corner.
But it’s clear that Bishop does have a creative vision with the castle, which is seen through the beautiful cathedral windows, impressive stained-glass accents and even the fire-breathing dragon sculpture that greets guests. There’s no denying it’s a sight to be seen, especially when you consider that it has been primarily self-funded and singlehandedly built. As Jim told The Gazette, “When you don’t have money for engineering, you need ingenious.”
There is no entrance fee for Bishop Castle, although impressed visitors are encouraged to leave donations, which continue to fund construction on the structure. The family also offers space for private events, such as weddings, although the details about how you should arrange for those aren’t entirely clear.
Bishop Castle is open 24/7 (at your own risk). From Westcliffe, travel east along Highway 96 until turning south on Highway 165 at the Makinzie Junction. The castle is 17 miles down the road and can’t be missed.