Kellie’s Castle, is an unfinished mansion on the outskirts of Ipoh. It was left incomplete after the death of its original owner, Scotsman William Kellie-Smith.
Today, the remains of the castle draw tourists keen to snap photos of the lovely and unusual architecture.
Find out why it was built and why it was never completed in this guide below. We’ll also share some of our photos from our own visit to the old mansion!
Table of contents:
Entrance Fee For Kellie’s Castle
As with many Malaysian local attractions, the entrance fee costs double if you do not have a MyKad (i.e. not a Malaysian citizen).
*Child below 12 years old
Note: Malaysians must present their MyKad (per member of the group) to get the discounted entrance fee
Why You Should Go:
- Step into the shoes of a successful plantation owner back in the 1920s.
- Spot some film locations like Anna And The King (1999) and Skyline Cruisers (2000)
- Admire the British and Indian-influenced architecture
- Great place for photos – some people have their pre-wedding photoshoots here!
Things To Do At Kellie’s Castle
- Check out the view of the garden, the nearby river, and surrounding plantations from the rooftop!
- Explore the grounds and the rooms – including the 6-storey tower, basement wine cellar and elevator shaft!
Note: For educational purposes, one of the rooms has been decorated to show how it would have looked if it 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
There aren’t many buildings like Kellie’s Castle in Malaysia, so looking through its history will help paint a better picture of how unique Kellie’s castle is.
1. Humble Beginnings: William Kellie Smith
The story begins with the owner, William Kellie Smith.
William was born in Kellas, Moray Firth in Scotland in 1870 as the middle child of his family, having arrived in Malaysia to work as a civil engineer when he was 20 (in 1890).
He made a good start working in a survey firm under Charles Alma Baker, which was aiming to clear 9000 hectares of jungle in Batu Gajah, Perak.
Notably, some of the land from that jungle clearing was purchased by William with the money he earned from the firm.
He also made a brief foray into the coffee industry, but that didn’t work out as expected.
In 1903, he returned to Scotland for a time to attend his mother’s funeral. It was then that he adopted his mother’s maiden name Kellie and met his future wife, Agnes.
Read more: 5 Theme Parks To Check Out In Ipoh & Perak
2. Kinta Kellas
William’s fortune eventually improved immensely with his investment into rubber plantations, which he named the ‘Kinta Kellas’ estate.
He also tried his hand at tin mining too (Kinta Kellas Tin Dredging Company), albeit to little success.
3. Kellas House
In 1903, William brought his Scottish wife, Agnes to Malaya, with their daughter Helen being born the next year.
To commemorate his new family, he started work on his first mansion called Kellas House:
This brick building replaced his former wooden bungalow and was completed in 1910, and you can still see the ruins of Kellas House right behind Kellie’s Castle today.
4. 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 intended to be a gift to his wife.
The mansion was to be as impressive as possible, with a combination of Moorish, Scottish as well as Tamilvanan Indian architectural aspects.
In fact, 70 Tamilvanan specialized craftsmen were hired to bring his dream mansion to fruition.
No expenses were spared either, with bricks and marble imported from India, and tiles from Italy too!
If completed, the mansion would’ve had Malaysia’s first elevator in the 6-story tower.
Other planned-out features of the mansion included an indoor tennis court, a wine cellar, and a rooftop courtyard for parties!
5. Unforeseen Delays And Bad Luck
Even after 11 years (construction ended in 1926), the mansion was never fully built!
And as for why it was left unfinished, well:
- It was built during the time of World War I, which caused a shortage of materials as well as labor.
- After the war, Spanish flu had spread to Batu Gajah (as well as the rest of the world), killing many of William’s hired workers.
- Some of his financial investments didn’t work out as he planned.
He did however have a temple built:
6. 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, prompting them to build a statue of him on the roof together with their deities!
- The temple was built roughly 1.5km away from Kellie’s Castle
- People still visit the temple to see the statue of William and to pray.
7. 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, and construction on the mansion was stopped.
As for his children, Anthony was killed in World War II and Helen never returned to Malaya.
Kellas Estate was then sold off to a British-based trading company, Harrisons and Crosfield that used the land to grow coffee and tea.
Having been partially damaged by Japanese bombs during World War II, the mansion was largely ignored by the company, and thus became overgrown.
8. 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.
During our last visit in 2023, we did observe that some parts of Kellie’s Castle are not in good shape. Some parts of the building have been vandalized with graffiti too.
9. Kellie’s Castle Hauntings
It has been 80 years or so since William tried to realize his dream of the mansion.
And if you’re to believe the rumors, there’s plenty of spooky stuff happening down at Kellie’s Castle!
Some people have reported seeing his spirit at night in the corridor on the second floor of the mansion.
Others claimed to see young Helen with her curly hair, wearing white in her bedroom.
Apart from the ghostly sightings, the mansion is also thought to have some hidden rooms and secret tunnels.
Note: There is one tunnel that was sealed for the public’s safety before Kellie’s Castle was opened. its purpose was an escape route between the mansion and the Hindu temple (Sri Maha Mariamman Temple) that is 10 minutes’ walk away.
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!
10. Plans To Finish The Building
Today, there is no intention to complete or fully restore 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 sported an all-white look, with a gold dome or two when finished.
This is of course, based on the surviving foundations, as well as existing colonial buildings in Malaysia and old photos of the Kellas House.
Tips For Visiting Kellie’s Castle
- Be prepared to climb some narrow and steep stairs
- There is little shelter from the sun here – the roof is completely gone for Kellas House
- 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 are on the way to or from Ipoh, Perak.
- Parking fees are RM2 and apply 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 plan how to go back.
- Allocate about 45 minutes to explore the mansion.
- Be careful when exploring the rooms – some of the wooden floors are rotting and there’s no barricade to stop you from accidently stepping on them
- Visitors cannot bring in any professional-looking cameras (that includes DSLRs and mirrorless cameras)
How To Get To Kellie’s Castle?
The abandoned mansion sits in Kinta Kellas Rubber Estate next to Sungai Raya (Raya river).
It’s an approximately 2 hour-drive from Kuala Lumpur and 30 minutes’ drive from Ipoh on the way to Batu Gajah:
- Address: Lot 48436, Kompleks Pelancongan Kellie’s Castle, KM 5.5, Jalan Gopeng, 31000 Batu Gajah, Perak
- Opening hours: 9:30am to 5:30pm
- Location: Google Maps
If you would rather someone else drive you there:
Book a Ipoh private tour with RaytheTour!
- Day tours in Ipoh, Taiping, or Cameron Highlands
- Local Ipoh-born guides who can speak English or Chinese
- Safe, comfortable, and reliable Ipoh transport service
- Flexible itinerary – go where you want to go!
Just contact them on WhatsApp!
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!
If you’re the type to delve into old buildings with a lot of history, a tragic yet romantic story awaits you at Kellie’s Castle! Papan Village is about a 15-minute drive away too, and just as interesting.
And those with kids can check out the Silverlakes Village Outlet in Batu Gajah.
Want more? Check out 14 more historical places in Malaysia.