Kellie’s Castle Ipoh is a mansion on the outskirts of Ipoh with a very castle-like appearance that was left incomplete due to the untimely death of the original owner, a Scotsman named William-Kellie-Smith.
Even until today, the standing remains of the unfinished stately home (also known as Kellie’s Folly) draw tourists that are keen to explore a different side of Ipoh.
A tragic yet romantic story awaits you at Kellie’s Castle!
Find out why it was initially built and why it was never completed!
Table of content:
- Where Is Kellie’s Castle?
- Entrance Fee For Kellie’s Castle
- Why You Should Go?
- Things To Do At Kellie’s Castle
- Kellie’s Castle History
- Tips For Visiting Kellie’s Castle
Where Is Kellie’s Castle?
The abandoned mansion sits in Kinta Kellas Rubber Estate next to Sungai Raya (Raya river) and on the way to Batu Gajah town.
That’s a 2 hour-drive from Kuala Lumpur and 30 minutes’ drive from Ipoh town!
If you would rather someone else drive you there:
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- Day tours in Ipoh, Taiping or Cameron Highlands
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Entrance Fee For 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), RM8 (Child below 12 years old)
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 – the castle features a blend ofBritish and Indian influence.
- Great place for photos – some people even have their pre-wedding photo shoots 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!
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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.
William Kellie Smith was born in Kellas, Moray Firth in Scotland back in 1870. He was the middle child in the family and when he was 20 (in 1890), he came to Malaya as a civil engineer.
He made a good start in a survey firm under Charles Alma Baker as it had multiple state concessions 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
William’s fortune eventually improved and immensely, with rubber plantations. He called his estate “Kinta Kellas”.
He did try a hand at tin mining too (Kinta Kellas Tin Dredging Company) but that was not as successful.
In 1903, William brought his Scottish wife, Agnes to Malaya. Their daughter, Helen was born the next year.
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
The birth of the couple’s first son in 1915, Anthony was something that the couple had long desired for many years.
William decided to celebrate this with the construction of a new mansion. The mansion was also a gift to his wife.
The mansion was to be as impressive as possible! William wanted it to have Moorish, Scottish as well as Tamilvanan Indian architectural aspects!
In fact, 70 Tamilvanan specialized craftsmen were hired to bring his dream mansion to fruition!
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!
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!
- It was built during the time of World War I. There was shortage of materials as well as labour.
- After the war, Spanish Flu hit 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:
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.
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
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 Hauntings
It has been 80 years or so since William tried to realize his dream of the mansion.
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 rumours that the mansion was used by the Japanese to torture and execute prisoners!
Plans To Finish The Building
There is no intention to complete the building.
The original plans for the house have been lost.
In a Discovery Channel documentary, a Malaysian architect (Chen Voon Fee) proposed that the mansion might have looked all-white with a gold dome or two.
His speculation is based on the surviving foundations, existing colonial buildings in Malaysia and old photos of the Kellas House.
Tips For Visiting Kellie’s Castle
- Be prepared to climb some stairs
- 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 150 m away from the entrance.
- From Ipoh town, 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.
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!
Have you seen something similar before? Leave a comment below.