Kellie's Castle

Kellie’s Castle Ipoh (or Kellie’s Folly), is an unfinished mansion on the outskirts of Ipoh left incomplete after the death of its original owner, Scotsman William Kellie-Smith.

Today, the remains of the castle draw in tourists keen to explore its history and to discover a different side of Ipoh.

Read on below for a complete travel guide to Kellie’s Castle. Discover why it was built, and why it was left incomplete, as well as the current day use for the old mansion!

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).

It’s an approximately 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 costs 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:

  • 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
Ground Floor Corridor at Kellie's Castle
Ground Floor Corridor at Kellie’s Castle – photo credits to eaglearm (Instagram)
  • Great place for photos – with many even having their pre-wedding photoshoots 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, some of the rooms have been decorated to resemble their intended design if the mansion 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, so taking a look through its history will help paint a better picture of how unique Kellie’s castle is.

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).

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 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

Kinta Kellas

William’s fortune eventually improved immensely with his investment into rubber plantations, which he named the ‘Kinta Kellas’ estate.

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

He also tried his hand at tin mining too (Kinta Kellas Tin Dredging Company), albeit to little success.

Kellas House

In 1903, William brought his Scottish wife, Agnes to Malaya, with their daughter Helen being born the next year.

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

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.

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.

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 a combination of 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)

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.

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

Other planned-out features of the mansion included 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!

And as for why it was left unfinished, well:

  1. It was built during the time of World War I, which caused a shortage of materials as well as labor.
  2. 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.
  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, 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.

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.

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

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.

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.

And if you’re to believe the rumors, there’s plenty of spooky stuff happening down at Kellie’s Castle!

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 still, have 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.

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

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.

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

This is of course, based on the surviving foundations, as well as 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
  • There is little shelter from the sun here – the roof is completely gone for one of the buildings
  • 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 plan how  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!

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!

Explore Ipoh/ Perak more:

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