Kellie's Castle

Kellie’s Castle Ipoh (or Kellie’s Folly) is a mansion at the outskirts of Ipoh that looks very castle-like!

Left incomplete after the untimely death of the original owner – a Scotsman, William-Kellie-Smith:

Today, the remains of the unfinished stately home draw tourists keen to explore a different side of Ipoh.

Kellie's Castle
Kellie’s Castle at Batu Gajah

Other than the delicious Ipoh food, abundant hipster cafes and Ipoh Old Town, of course!

Find out why it was built and why it was never completed!

Table of content:

Where Is Kellie’s Castle?

On the way to Batu Gajah:

The abandoned mansion sits in Kinta Kellas Rubber Estate next to Sungai Raya (Raya river).

That’s a 2 hour-drive from Kuala Lumpur and 30 minutes’ drive from Ipoh!

Address: Jalan Gopeng, 31000 Batu Gajah, Perak, Malaysia

Opening hours: 9am to 6pm

GPS coordinates: 4.4743826,101.0855991

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Entrance Fee For Kellie’s Castle

Visitor Centre of Kellie's Castle
Visitor Centre of Kellie’s Castle

As with many Malaysian local attractions, the entrance fee is double if you do not have a MyKad (i.e. not a Malaysian citizen).

Malaysians: RM5 (Adult), RM3 (Child below 12 years old), RM4 (seniors)

Foreigners:  RM10 (Adult), RM9 (Child below 12 years old)

Note: Malaysians must present their MyKad (per member of the group) in order to get the discounted entrance fee

Why You Should Go:

  • You can imagine what it was like to be a successful plantation owner back in the 1920s.
  • Spot some film locations like Anna And The King (1999) and Skyline Cruisers (2000)
  • Admire the architecture of British and Indian influence!
Ground Floor Corridor at Kellie's Castle
Ground Floor Corridor at Kellie’s Castle – photo credits to eaglearm (Instagram)
  • Great place for photos – some people even have their pre-wedding photo shoots here!

Things To Do At Kellie’s Castle

Kellie's Castle and Gardens
Kellie’s Castle and Gardens – photo credits to idros (Instagram)
  • Check out the view of the garden, the nearby river and surrounding plantations from the rooftop!
Stairs to the garden at Kellie's Castle
Stairs to the garden at Kellie’s Castle – photo credits to mohamadsubribinmohdnoor (Instagram)
  • Explore the grounds and the rooms – including the 6-storey tower, basement wine cellar and elevator shaft!

Note: For educational purposes, a couple of the rooms have been decorated to resemble what they should have looked like if they had been completed during William-Kellie-Smith’s time.

Read more: HOGA Gaharu Tea Valley Gopeng: Another Place To Try Tea For Tea Lovers + What To Do

Kellie’s Castle History

There aren’t many buildings like Kellie’s Castle in Malaysia. To fully grasp how unique Kellie’s Castle is:

You must take a step back to its origin!

Humble Beginnings: William Kellie Smith

That naturally begins with the owner, William Kellie Smith.

Born in Kellas, Moray Firth in Scotland back in 1870 as the middle child in the family:

When he was 20 (in 1890), he came to Malaya as a civil engineer.

Moorish Architecture features on Kellie's Castle
Moorish Architecture features on Kellie’s Castle – photo credits to moon_lmh (Instagram)

He made a good start in a survey firm under Charles Alma Baker. Which aimed to clear 9000 hectares worth of jungle in Batu Gajah, Perak.

In fact, William bought some of that land with money he earned at Charles Alma Baker’s firm.

His attempts at the coffee industry didn’t work out.

And in 1903, he attended his mother’s funeral back in Scotland for a time.

It was then that he adopted his mother’s maiden name Kellie. And met Agnes, who would later become his wife.

Read more: 5 Theme Parks To Check Out In Ipoh & Perak

Kinta Kellas

William’s fortune eventually improved and immensely, with rubber plantations.

He called his estate “Kinta Kellas”.

Kellas Estate at Kellie's Castle
Kellas Estate at Kellie’s Castle

He did try his hand at tin mining too (Kinta Kellas Tin Dredging Company) but with little success.

Kellas House

In 1903, William brought his Scottish wife, Agnes to Malaya. Their daughter, Helen was born the next year.

Kellas House at Kellies's House
Kellas House at Kellies’s House

His first mansion was called Kellas House:

This brick building replaced his former wooden bungalow and was completed in 1910.

You can still see the ruins of Kellas House right behind Kellie’s Castle.

Construction Of Kellie’s Castle

In 1915, William decided to celebrate the birth of the couple’s first son, Anthony with the construction of a new mansion.

The mansion was also a gift to his wife.

Facade of Kellie's Castle
Facade of Kellie’s Castle – photo credits to mariie_luise (Instagram)

The mansion was to be as impressive as possible!

With Moorish, Scottish as well as Tamilvanan Indian architectural aspects!

View of the garden at Kellie's Castle
View of the garden at Kellie’s Castle – photo credits to henrycck(Instagram)

In fact, 70 Tamilvanan specialized craftsmen were hired to bring his dream mansion to fruition!

Upper Floor Corridor in Kellie's Castle
Upper Floor Corridor in Kellie’s Castle – photo credits to shahridzuan (Instagram)

Even the bricks and marble were from India with some tiles from Italy too!

The mansion would have Malaysia’s first elevator in the 6-storey tower!

Elevator Shaft at Kellie's Castle
Elevator Shaft at Kellie’s Castle

And it would also feature an indoor tennis court, a wine cellar and a rooftop courtyard for parties!

Unforeseen Delays And Bad Luck

Even after 11 years (construction ended in 1926), the mansion was never fully built!

Why?

  1. It was built during the time of World War I. There was shortage of materials as well as labor.
  2. After the war, Spanish flu hit Batu Gajah (as well as the rest of the world), killing many of William’s hired workers.
  3. Some of his financial investments didn’t work out as he planned.

He did however have a temple built:

A Temple Close To Kellie’s Castle – Sri Maha Mariamman Temple

  • The temple was requested by William’s Hindu workers so that they could pray to overcome the Spanish flu.
  • He agreed to their request which prompted them to build a statue of him on the roof together with their deities!
  • The temple was built close to Kellie’s Castle (Roughly 1.5km away)
  • People still come to the temple to see the statue of William and also to pray.

The End Of A Dream

Unfortunately, William Kellie Smith caught pneumonia during a trip to Lisbon, Portugal.

He died in Lisbon at the age of 56 and was buried at a British cemetery.

His wife moved back to Scotland. Construction on the mansion stopped.

Kellie's Castle
Kellie’s Castle – photo credits to coolgardy (Instagram)

What about his children?

Anthony was killed in Word War II and Helen never returned.

Kellas Estate was sold off to a British-based trading company, Harrisons and Crosfield that used the land to grow coffee and tea.

They ignored the mansion which had been partly damaged by Japanese bombing in World War II and let it become overgrown.

What Came Afterwards

We might have lost this heritage gem altogether if the Malaysian government did not step in.

Now, Kellie’s Castle is a budding tourist attraction.

Kellie's Castle Close To Gopeng
Kellie’s Castle Close To Gopeng – photo credits to vincekth (Instagram)

Kellie’s Castle Hauntings

It has been 80 years or so since William tried to realize his dream of the mansion.

Night at Kellie's Castle
Night at Kellie’s Castle – photo credits to mikelam88 (Instagram)

Some people have reported seeing his spirit at night in the corridor on the second floor of the mansion.

Others have claimed to see little Helen with her curly hair, wearing white in her bedroom.

The mansion is also thought to have some hidden rooms and secret tunnels.

And since Malaya was under the Japanese occupation during World War II:

There are rumors that the mansion was used by the Japanese to torture and execute prisoners!

Plans To Finish The Building

Top of Kellie's Castle
Top of Kellie’s Castle

There is no intention to complete the building. Especially since the original plans for the house have been lost.

In a Discovery Channel documentary:

Malaysian architect, Chen Voon Fee proposed that the mansion might have looked all-white with a gold dome or two when finished.

Rooftop of Kellie's Castle
Rooftop of Kellie’s Castle

Based on the surviving foundations, existing colonial buildings in Malaysia and old photos of the Kellas House.

Read more: Gua Tempurung Caving (Perak’s Own Cave Of Wonders) – Fantastic Caving Experience In Gopeng

Tips For Visiting Kellie’s Castle

  • Be prepared to climb some stairs
Stairwell at Kellie's Castle
Stairwell at Kellie’s Castle
  • Little shelter from the sun here.
  • Bring a bottle of water to keep hydrated, especially if you visit in the afternoon.
  • It is more convenient to visit if you happen to be in Ipoh or you are on the way to or from Ipoh, Perak.
  • A car park is available at RM 2 charge once you enter the premises.
  • The free car park is 150m away from the entrance.
  • From Ipoh, it is easy to get a Grab car but you will need to make arrangements to go back.
  • Allocate about 45 minutes to explore the mansion.

Conclusion

Kellie’s Castle may not be a castle per say, but it is still impressive and worth a look if you happen to be in Ipoh!

A tragic yet romantic story awaits you at Kellie’s Castle!

Explore Ipoh/ Perak more:

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