Sunday, June 19, 2016

Bishop's Castle

Unreal. This place is absolutely unreal. Insane. Walk around the castle and you'll see looks of complete disbelief on peoples' faces. What in the world... There's also a real sense giddiness in the air. A playful and joyous spirit among those winding their way up and down narrow, spiraling staircases. You can't help to wonder what's around the corner. Jim Bishop, the castle builder, has been constructing this unfinished wonder for the past 47 years and welcomes visitors to wander around his construction site. To me, visiting here was like coming down the stairs on Christmas morning. It's a magical, unbelievable experience.

Eccentric. Nonconformist. Dissident. Other words that come to mind. All around are signs, literal signs, of his ongoing battle with government authorities over stones taken from federal lands, over signs posted on roads, over zoning and licensing requirements, and on and on. Clearly he's had some run-ins with government and there is no love lost. Here is a man who loves freedom and the right to create and think and do and share as he pleases. Entering the property you are told that you are responsible for your own safety and that there are many risks. So different from every other tourist destinations where ropes and caution tape and barricades limit and protect. Here, the rules are simple: sign the guest book, read the signs and basically, "agree with me on everything." And no drunks. That's another of his conditions. And with the castle turrets soaring 160 feet in the air and mesh-wire balconies with wide-open ledges, it's best to be sober.

What I loved most about visiting was the playfulness of the place. I'm not good with heights but the castle just encourages you to explore, to climb to the next level. Such a creative mind to top the castle with a giant steel ball that you can climb into -- or a fire breathing dragon on the front. It's unfinished and some parts are rough, but it really is a remarkable accomplishment to be the work of one man. It's definitely worth the drive. Admission is free, donations are welcome. I'm told you can find Jim there on the weekends as he continues to build his castle.

Directions: The castle is located in Rye, Colorado -- southwest of Pueblo. The easiest way to get there is to take I-25 to exit 74 (Colorado City) and drive west on CO. 165 for 24 miles (about 30 minutes).

For more on the castle, visit the official website.

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