Built with the fortunes made from various enterprises like tin mining, forest clearing and rubber tree planting, William Kellie-Smith was inspired to give a mighty gift to his beloved family in the form of Kellie’s Castle. This castle was meant to remind Kellie and his family of their distant home back in Scotland, but with a bit of an exotic flair to match Kellie’s adventurous spirit.
If completed, this would have been the most grandiose, show-offy home with an elevator and an indoor tennis court. However, there were several large setbacks during its construction, the last straw being Kellie’s sudden death by pneumonia in 1926. The castle was never finished and promptly sold off after that point. Perhaps because Kellie never got to see his dream home come to fruition, Kellie’s Castle is rumoured to be haunted. I, however, don’t believe in such nonsense.
Admission Fees at Kellie’s Castle
These were the admission prices at Kellie’s Castle as of the end of 2020.
Foreigner Adults: RM10
Foreigner Children: RM9
Malaysian Adults: RM5
Malaysian Seniors: RM4
Malaysian Children: RM3
Opening Hours at Kellie’s Castle
Kellie’s Castle is open from 9am to 6pm.
How To Get To Kellie’s Castle & Parking Fee
Kellie’s Castle is located south of Ipoh, about a 30-minute drive from Oldtown in Batu Gajah. It is much further than attractions that already seem “far” like Kek Lok Tong Temple. The route is straightforward though, following Highway 1 (which starts as Jalan Raja Dr. Nazrin Shah) until turning onto Highway A8 Jalan Gopeng. Then it’s simply a straight drive for a while until Kellie’s Castle will appear on your left.
Parking costs RM2 per car, which will be collected along with the admission fees before you drive in. Keep the receipt that is given to you, as you will need to show it to staff to be able to enter the castle grounds.
Just like Gua Tempurung, there is no direct bus from Ipoh to Kellie’s Castle. The fabled Ipoh bus 66 does not exist, at least not during the COVID-19 pandemic. If you’re set on public transport, be prepared for a long and inconvenient journey with lots of waiting since Malaysian bus scheduling is always dubious at best. From the Perak Transit website, it looks like you will have to take city bus route T36 to Batu Gajah, then walk the rest of the way to the castle along the highway with no sidewalks and eventually, no shade.
Like I said in my Gua Tempurung post, the most convenient option is to just take the hit to your wallet and hire a driver for the day (RM300 to RM350, or less than 100 in most western currencies). This way you can also visit faraway attractions that are a pain to get to. In my opinion, waiting for and riding city buses are an enormous waste of the limited time you have while on vacation. We used Paul Leong and I recommend his services.
Facilities at Kellie’s Castle
The building next to the parking lot has everything guests need. There is some basic food for sale like crisps, baos and curry puffs. Coffee and other hot drinks can be bought from the counter labelled “Minuman” (drinks) while cold drinks are in a fridge next to it.
The toilets are next to the drinks stall, and in the women’s there was a sitting toilet with paper. Don’t miss the info board on the wall at the very end across the souvenir shop that gives an introduction to the castle.
What To See at Kellie’s Castle
There is a gentle strolling path that goes around the entire perimeter of Kellie’s Castle. Very few tourists bothered with this path, so it was a quiet reprieve from all the crowds. While admiring Kellie’s Castle from these different angles, it is interesting to note that all the bricks and marble making up the mansion are all imported from India. The windows are also in a unique Moorish style which was unusual for a westerner’s home at the time.
Around the backside of the castle are benches and a gazebo. This gazebo is the coolest part of the castle… literally! It’s muggy and hot inside the castle, but in this gazebo, you have a breeze blowing from every direction. If your travelling companion is getting overheated, fussy, and sick of all the photo-taking, send them here to wait until you’ve finished.
Strategically hidden behind the castle’s picture-perfect front facade are the incomplete ruins of an old wing. The roof was never added, or it disintegrated over time, and the yellow-tinged building is completely missing its fourth wall. There are small white plaques on the walls that explain what this area used to be and what happened here, so keep your eyes out for those.
Inside Kellie’s Castle
While the exterior has a far east touch to it, the interior remains very British. Inside the castle proper, only one room has been recreated in the style of the time, a fancy tea and sitting room. You can only observe it from a distance as metal gates have been put up in the archways. The room next to this has many information boards about the history of this castle, Kellie himself, and his family.
Unfortunately, the rest of Kellie’s Castle is mostly bare. The views from the Morrocan-inspired windows are the most picturesque things. Some of these empty rooms have a slightly hidden narrow spiral staircase that leads down into a dark cellar. In one of these, I saw some very out-of-place bricks arranged in a half-circle shape in the wall – a hearth or maybe one of the rumoured secret passageways that have now been bricked up.
As you proceed to the upper levels, you might notice an empty shaft next to the stairs. The tower portion of the castle is where Kellie was building the castle’s lift. If it was completed, it would’ve been the first elevator in Malaysia. It runs from the tower’s roof down to a supposed underground tunnel.
Visitors are free to walk on both rooftops. There is one on the second floor and another two storeys up on top of the tower. The lower roof barely has anything resembling a guard rail, so watch your children (or your husband if he’s a clumsy idiot) so they don’t fall off.
These roofs, which were originally intended for parties, have an awesome view all across the land that Kellie had purchased. From the west side of the roof looking toward Batu Gajah are orderly plantations.
On the opposite side is a thick palm tree plantation and the distant hills past Gopeng. It’s tempting to stay up here and enjoy the 360-degree view but oh my god is it sweltering up here on a sunny day. The Malaysian sun beating down on a black tar paper roof with zero shade will sap the energy out of almost anyone.
Kellie’s Castle isn’t overly impressive and is good for an hour, maybe an hour and a half, of exploring. The lack of anything inside means you’re just wandering through empty room after empty room with occasionally some plaques to read. I didn’t have a bad time at Kellie’s Castle, but it might not be worth the time it takes to get here. Especially if you’re just coming for this one attraction (or worse, taking a bus), you might spend more time travelling here than actually in the castle. Except to those completionists out there who want to see everything there is to see in the Ipoh area, this attraction is not a must.