It’s a story that has been told time and again – someone drops out of school at 15 with claims that they won’t amount to anything following them out of the door, only to end up spectacularly defying their doubters. What did that someone go on to become? A famous writer, perhaps? A pop star? Maybe something more conventional such as a revered surgeon?
In Jim Bishop’s case, his destiny was to spend over 60 years building a castle in Colorado, from scratch, entirely on his own.
Situated in south central Colorado, off State Highway 165, Bishop Castle has grown from one man’s modest ambition to a bona fide roadside attraction.
Constructed from iron and stone, Bishop began his project after buying two-and-a-half acres of land – which stands 9,000 feet above sea level and is surrounded by forest – for just $450. He had originally intended to build a small family cottage there, but, over time, his ambitions expanded to such a degree that the building work continues to this day.
That high elevation makes the success of Bishop’s construction even more remarkable given the frequently inclement weather and short summer season. Indeed, he only has a couple of months or so each year in which to work in something approaching ideal conditions.
Boasting three stories of interior rooms, including a Grand Ballroom, the castle also has towers and bridges as well as stained-glass windows commemorating a birth, death or wedding anniversary. It even has a fire-breathing metal dragon watching over the surroundings from the roof,
The castle’s construction has not been without its setbacks. Indeed, in March 2018, a fire took hold, but, thankfully, only the gift shop was destroyed. Meanwhile, its creator was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease around the same time, and yet still he continues to work on his unfinished masterpiece. Perhaps even more remarkably, Bishop has never worked from a blueprint, instead relying on intuition, his mind free from the constraints of convention.
No entry fee is charged for visiting Bishop Castle as the owner always disliked not being able to afford to visit places as a child. Instead, visitors are asked to leave a donation should they choose to.
What those fortunate enough to make a trip there – either for a day out or as part of a wedding party – will find awaits them is a truly unique and impressive (ongoing) monument to the powers of individual eccentricity, extraordinary perseverance and succeeding against the odds.