Blog post by Jeri

Chris and James McDougald at Bishop Castle in the San Isabel National Forest in the Wet Mountains

Chris and James McDougald, longtime friends from “back home” in the Denver metro area, visited us here at Cliff’s Edge Inn last weekend, and we spent Sunday afternoon on an excursion to Bishop Castle.

It is a beautiful, 30-mile drive through the Wet Mountains to get to Bishop Castle from Westcliffe. The castle itself is a work of art, a work in progress, and the work (and vision) of a single man, Jim Bishop. The castle could be defined as visionary art or a folly;* other words that come to mind include fascinating, stunning, fanciful, and unbelievable.

*In architecture, a folly is a building constructed primarily for decoration, either suggesting by its appearance some other purpose, or merely so extravagant that it transcends the normal range of garden ornaments or other class of building to which it belongs. (Source: Wikipedia, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Folly)

 Bishop Castle: Not something you see every day.

Bishop Castle: Not something you see every day.

Everything about the site is fantastic, from the towering stone and steel structure of the castle, to the dragon’s head soaring from the top of the building, to the signs posted all over the grounds of the property, advising us of Jim Bishop’s epic life’s work and political views. (You can read about Jim’s views and see an example of his signs at http://www.roadsideamerica.com/story/2047, but to really experience them you will have to visit the castle.)

THIS EXPERIENCE IS NOT FOR THE FAINT OF HEART

You move from level to level in the castle via winding stairs on the inside of turrets, or climb stairs on the outside. (By which I mean to say you may be able to use the outside staircases, but I certainly can’t – those outside steps make me very, very uncomfortable.) I believe you may be able to go up many floors, but I really can’t say from experience. I was perfectly content to stop at the level of the great room, where stained glass windows look out to a magnificent view.  You can see why couples want to get married in these romantic, fairy tale surroundings.

 A sign posted at Bishop Castle

A sign posted at Bishop Castle

Throughout the day we enjoyed discussing the drive of people with a single-minded purpose and devotion to a cause, whether building a castle or competing in the Olympics or following any passion passionately. We also talked about the relative importance of building codes, the art of discussing politically-charged topics, and the other incidents of vertigo or fear of heights we have experienced. (Chris remembered the glass floor of the observation deck at the World Trade Center; I remembered my daughters casually walking to the 800 foot drop off the edge of the Cliffs of Moher in Ireland ten years ago.)

Places like this are hard to describe

As I was trying to describe Bishop Castle to Chris and James before we set off to see it, I had the sense that they couldn’t understand why I wanted to take them there. I couldn't quite find the words to describe the quirky spirit and outlandish beauty of the place. I keep running up against this same sense of inadequacy when trying to explain my experiences since moving here to Westcliffe. 

I guess that all I can say is that I need you to come see it so you will understand.


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AuthorJeri