If Colorado isn’t the first destination that comes to mind for castle touring, that’s no surprise. But many ornate, European- and worldly influenced castles do in fact lie within state lines.
Some are right under our noses, like Denver’s Richthofen Castle (a privately owned residence), Castle Marne (a bed and breakfast), and Colorado Springs’ Will Rogers Shrine of the Sun at Cheyenne Mountain Zoo. These are often admired street-side, but public access and tours of the interiors are not offered.
Fear not. Three castles in the Colorado Springs area and another farther south are better suited for a day of exploration. Enjoy teatime and guided tours at Cherokee Ranch & Castle and Glen Eyrie Castle, wander exhibits inside Miramont Castle Museum, and scale staircases along the exterior walls of the eccentric Bishop Castle. These stately structures each hold a storied past, architectural depth and original character.
Cherokee Ranch & Castle
In Sedalia, about 30 miles south of Denver, the Scottish-style Cherokee Ranch & Castle overlooks 3,400 acres of protected land below its hillside perch. The castle itself spans 10,000 square feet with 26 rooms and was built in 1924. Architect Burnham Hoyt—who also designed Red Rocks Amphitheatre—utilized locally sourced rhyolite rock and petrified palm trees in the exterior design. Inside, art, period furniture and antiques decorate the rooms.
Formerly called Charlford Castle, the original owner was Charles Alfred Johnson, a real estate business owner and family man. In 1954, Equestrian “Tweet” Kimball purchased the land, known as the Flower Homestead, as well as the neighboring Blunt Homestead. Kimball established what is now the Cherokee Ranch & Castle Foundation with land designated as a protected wildlife sanctuary.
Tours of the castle are led on Saturdays and select weekdays, and teatime at the castle occur most Wednesdays and Saturdays and include a light meal. Check the calendar for monthly brunches, weekly lunches, guided hikes and occasional live music and film events.
A must-visit in the small town of Manitou Springs, Miramont Castle Museum was built in 1895 and added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1977. The 42-room castle served as a private home for Father Jean Baptist Francolon and combined his favorite architectural styles, including touches of English Tudor, Byzantine, Moorish and Elizabethan.
Self-tour the castle and gardens, including five museum exhibits: the Manitou Springs Volunteer Fire Department “museum within a museum,” Nurnberg Exhibit, Spoilers of War, Little London Miniatures, and the Sawyer & Garstin Map Collection. Afterwards, visit the Queen’s Parlor Tearoom (open 11 am-3 pm daily; reservations required) and browse Victorian-style porcelain dolls, rare candies and teas in the gift shop.
And don’t miss Emma Crawford’s Wake, held in the museum. The annual event in October is timed in conjunction with the town’s Emma Crawford Coffin Race & Parade—one of Colorado’s quirkiest festivals.
The adventures at Glen Eyrie don’t end with tours and teatime. Guests may reserve a room inside the English Tudor-style castle for an overnight stay, and girls become royalty with the Castle Princess Package, which includes a tour of the property, teatime in the Castle Music Room and breakfast in the dining room following your slumber.
For visitors with less time to spare, the 90-minute tour offers historical insights and architectural facts while navigating the carriage house and first two floors of the castle (tours run Monday-Saturday at 11 am and 1 pm; Sundays at 1 pm). Or stop in for a cup of tea during the Queen’s Tea (Monday-Thursday at 2:30 pm) or the Royal Tea (Fridays and Saturdays at 2:30 pm; Sunday at 11:30 am). A Christian bookstore and café is on-site inside the carriage house and open daily.
The 800-acre Glen Eyrie Estate, built in 1903, was home to General William Jackson Palmer, founder of Colorado Springs. It is now run by a Christian ministry organization called The Navigators and used as a conference and retreat center.
An hour-and-a-half south of Colorado Springs, Bishop Castle is unlike the others. It’s a labor of love built by an entrepreneurial high school dropout, and it’s open all day, everyday for self-touring, free-of-charge.
In 1959, 15-year-old Jim Bishop paid $450 for 2.5 acres of land, with the support of his parents. Over the next decade, Bishop and his father spent summers building the foundation for a family cabin. In 1969, two years after Bishop married, he began building a one-room cottage. Needing a source of running water, a 40-foot water tank was constructed and Bishop decided to surround it with stonework. After months of listening to suggestions that it appeared he was building a castle, the structure did in fact begin to take the shape of a castle and he continued to add on to it ever after. Word of the intricate—and eccentric—structure spread and it soon became an attraction of sorts.
Popular features of the three-story, one-man-project include the Grand Ballroom, a steel dragon chimney that Bishop hammered the shape of at his iron shop, and the winding staircases and walkways along the exterior of the stone structure.