Did we mention the fire-breathing dragon?
Why travel abroad to visit storybook castles that housed famous (and infamous) royals throughout history, when Colorado has a castle of its own! The Bishop Castle in Rye may not be home to a royal family, but it is surely something to admire.
The 16-story wonder was hand-built from the ground up by Jim Bishop, a Coloradan who just may be the definition of dogged determination. Bishop has spent the past 60 years building his gigantic fortress of stone and iron, which includes large cathedral windows, wrought-iron walkways—and even a fire-breathing metal dragon! The wondrous building is surrounded on three sides by the majestic San Isabel National Forest, providing a stunning setting for such a special home.
How a Castle Came to Life
Jim Bishop set out on his architectural escapade at the age of 25, when he decided to build a one-room stone cottage on a plot of land he had purchased 10 years earlier—when he was just 15 years old! After installing a gigantic stone-enclosed water tank that looked strangely like a turret, neighbors started making comments that inspired Bishop to continue building on the property’s castle-themed elements.
Over the next six decades, the Castle grew to enormous heights—expanding to include whimsical works like the twisted railing on the castle’s southeast tower, extravagant spaces like the grand ballroom, and many other fascinating components both large and small. The soaring behemoth also offers stunning mountain vistas.
Bishop maintains that he did not use plans or blueprints to build the castle, and that he’s been the solo architect on this massive project.
Plan Your Visit
Today, tourists are welcome to visit the castle and marvel at its beauty inside and out. There’s no fee to enter the castle and peep the three stories of interior rooms, though a donation to the project can be made via a collection box or by supporting the gift shop adjacent to the building.
While at Bishop Castle, you can’t miss the dragon perched 80 feet in the air off the grand ballroom, complete with thousands of hammered metal “scales” and a burner from a hot air balloon that allows the dragon to breathe fire.
Also look for the stained glass windows present throughout the castle. Created by an artist from Wetmore, Colorado, these windows are custom-designed by castle-goers and then installed by Jim Bishop himself. The windows are a popular keepsake for couples who get married at the Bishop Castle, or those who wish to memorialize loved ones.
Around the Area
After a visit to the castle, make time to explore the area by hiking and camping in the beautiful San Isabel National Forest. Driving the nearby Frontier Pathways Scenic and Historic Byway is also a popular way to spend some time—the 103-mile drive winds through historic towns with sweeping views.
Worth a visit? Let us know what you think below in the comments!