Sunday, June 28, 2009


Sometime ago, flashes of Kellie's Castle and other heritage sites used to pop up during my Astro viewings on TV. It piqued my curiosity. Here's a 'castle in the sky'( on a ridge),abandoned, uncompleted and of a bygone era right here in Malaysia. I've walked into many stately castles on my overeas travel. Surely, this castle warrants a look-see, at least.

Things don't just happen ,so it was planned that on the way back to KL from Damai Laut Resort, there would be a stopover with my folks. So we made a detour to Batu Gajah.

I liked what I saw at first glance. So, that's the famed castle - on top of a hill and a river sweeps by with a bridge to cross over. An imposing sight!

Kellie's Castle was built by a Scottish planter, William Smith-Kellie in 1915. As a youg adventurer, he came to Malaysia, then Malaya to seek his fortunes. He befriended an estate owner, Alma Baker. Fortune smiled on Smith and with his wealth, he started to plant rubber trees and dabbled in the tin mining industry. Soon he was the proud owner of the Kinta Kellas estate and the Kinta Dredging Company.

Around 1909/1910, Smith built his first mansion. He returned home to marry his Scottish sweetheart, Agnes. 5 years later when their son, heir apparent was born, Smith expanded on his mansion. He started building Kellie's castle which he planned to call Kellas House, after his hometown in Scotland.

It was to surpass his country house. Smith brought in 70 workers from Madras including the bricks and marble for the stately abode. It was to be linked to the first by a covered passageway. 2 tunnels were designed to run under the river. The design too incorporated Islamic influences in the dome shaped windows and stately columns. Smith planned 14 rooms , including a wine cellar. Amazingly a 6 storey tower was to have the first elevator ever in Malaya ! Added to these grandiose plans were a indoor tennis court and a rooftop courtyard for parties. Smith had wanted a moat to complete the mansion . Truly, it was more of a castle than a country house. Such news made it to The London Financial Newspaper on 15 Sept 1911.

But tragedy struck. A mysterious disease broke out and killed many of Smith's workers. The superstitious Smith was told that a temple must be built to appease the gods. He duly obliged and transferred the workers to build the Hindu temple.

Fate dealt another blow. A second tragedy struck. Few stories are told of his death. The oft quoted story says Smith died suddenly of pneumonia in Lisbon. He was said to be on his way to take delivery of the elevator that he ordered for his mansion.

Agnes could not imagine a solitary life in Malaya. Heartbroken, she sold the estate to a British company, Harrisons and Crosfield and returned to Scotland. So, ended a colonial planter's dreams.

We wandered around the empty rooms - bedrooms, large linen storage room,living room, kitchen etc. If only walls could speak...

I thought how grand the castle would have been if it had seen its glory. I climbed to the rooftop and lingered for a little. What a view!

Now its up to us to preserve Kellie's Castle. No undergrowth or jungle need creep up to it anymore. Nor it be left derelict. It is too fascinating and important in the local history to be left abandoned. Due thanks to the Department of Museum and Antiquities which stepped in to restore to the condition it was when work was abruptly halted in 1926.

The castle and the grounds are well-maintained. It was good to see tourists coming to have a glimpse into the history of a bygone era. To get to know a man who had big dreams and wanted to live like a king.

Rumours swirl about ghost sightings of Smith. It was broad daylight when we were there. I certainly didn't have any eerie feelings nor do I believe in ghosts.

So what piqued my curiosity is satisfied. Long live Kellie's Castle! May the soul of William Smith - Kellie rest in peace.


  1. Wow. I've been to Kellie's Castle but didn't remember it to be as amazing and the story as dramatic as you have narrated. Thank you, I enjoyed it. I love life stories.

    Do you know that the Clearwater Santuary nearby is also a wonderful resort.

  2. Fantastic place..thanks for sharing it!

  3. Great shots from the Castle,
    its a beautiful place ...
    Thanks for so many shots :)

  4. Great photos! And a wonderfully told human story.

  5. Yes, a great story and photos of a place one would never expect to see there. Thanks, Keats.

  6. I've heard of the place but never been there. Thanks for sharing the awesome pics and story. I really ought to visit the castle.

  7. look very interesting, will definitely go there in the near future

  8. HI everyone, thanks for doing the walkabout in Kellie's Castle!

    Ocean Girl, I have seen big ads on Clearwater Sanctuary but have not been there. Thanks for sharing.

    The Retired One, yes, it's fascinating!

    Anya,Gran, catalyst, Veronica Lee , I'm really surprised that I captured those shots. I hadn't started blogging then . Am trying to improve with my Canon camera. I do need some tips.

    xplorer, do pay a visit and soak in the history.

  9. Thanks for the story.
    I've been there sometimes ago.
    The feeling I had on the castle .... lonely.

  10. Great post as usual, Keats! Did you take all the photos posted here? They are beautiful! I did a blogpost on Kellie's Castle in my older blog. It really is such a fascinating place, is it not?

    I first visited it in the early 1990s as part of a school field trip. It was a sad-looking place, full of graffiti and litter, and without functioning toilets. We went back to the bus screaming 'toilet! toilet!' until the poor bus driver made a pit stop for us at the nearest fuel station.

    Apparently, WIlliam Smith-Kellie was fascinated by Hinduism and visited some nearby temples. To ensure his privacy, secret tunnels were (allegedly) constructed under the Castle to link up with the temples he would frequent. Some of the tunnels have since caved in and some were closed off by the authorities for safety reasons, but many believe that it is because the tunnels hide BIG secrets! Possibly to do with espionage! Or the occult! Or the state royalty! Or hidden treasures!

    They did some improvements to the place when "The King and I" was filmed in Malaysia in the late 90s, I think. Part of the filming was carried out within the grounds, with Kellie's Castle in the background.

    You don't believe in ghosts, Keats? But THEY believe in you! ;o)

  11. Hi
    Lay Hoon, 'lonely' is an apt word to describe the place. Thanks for popping in.

    ~Covert_Operations'78, looking at the pics now, I have to say I 'm proud of myself:) No idea of blogging had entered my head then. Now they seem to fit in so well in this blog.

    I can imagine screaming kids holding on and waiting to pee!!

    Thanks for the additional info. Adds more to the mysteries.

    Good to see improvements.In fact,I wrote a letter to the management after my return to highlight the bad English the visitors had to contend with. These were information pasted on the walls :( That was the only thing that marred our visit.

    Ha! Ha! who's there to scare me??

  12. I like both the story and the photos of the custle. Like you said, if only walls could talk. This post is really interesting and impressive.

  13. Wonderful photos, and the history about Kellies' Castle is so captivating..Thank you!

  14. This is phenomenal! It cracks me up to see the palm trees in front of a Scottish castle! What a story!

  15. Beautiful building and interesting story. It reminds me a little of the Winchester House in CA...built by a wealthy widow and filled with mystery and sadness.

  16. I love this post. What a fascinating story about Smith. And the pictures are great - you're right, what a view! Can you imagine a party on that rooftop? Thanks for the peek into history.

  17. Hi
    MedaM and Icy BC, welcome and thanks for following my blog. Glad you like the story :)

    Marie Reed, adrienne and Suzanne Casamento,many stories are written about colonial planters. This one is a rarity.

  18. Interesting, read about it a few times, and tks for sharing all those info.

  19. beautiful shots of the castle, thanks also for the information you shared.

  20. Your photos are wonderful. Thanks for sharing you delightful journey.

  21. Hi
    M. Kate, appreciate your comments.

    Betchai and Pam, thanks for visiting.

  22. These are wonderful shots to show us, what a nice place to visit too. thanks for sharing keats and for the visits.

  23. hi..thanks for coming to my bloggie.. i m from Perak and I have not been to kellie's castle.. shame shame... looking at your pics.. they look beautiful..perhaps one day i will pay a visit...

  24. Hi
    Pacey, thanks so much for your compliments! I hope my fellow bloggers will visit your blog as you take wonderful pics:))

    reanaclaire, good to know one from Perak. So close to home. My hometown is Taiping. Thanks so much for following my blog.

    Do visit Kellie's Castle.

  25. hi, you take good pictures. the place is so wonderful. i wish to visit there someday. by the way, thank you so much for the comment and visit. i appreciate it.

  26. That's an interesting story! Nice photos, btw. And thanks for dropping by my blog and leaving comments : )

  27. I will be in Ipoh in September to attend my sister's wedding but I don't think I will have enough time to visit this wonderful castle

  28. Hi
    eden,thanks for your kind comments and visit. do pop in again.

    foongpc, glad you like the story.

    BorneoFalcon, the castle is not so far away. You never know you can squeeze it in if time permits. I understand catching up with rellies and friends is more important.

  29. Wonderful architecture! I can see that your visit was really worth it. Thank you for the uplifting comments on my blog. I hope I will get better soon to come visit more often again. Have a great weekend :)

  30. At first glance, I thought this castle was somewhere in Europe.

  31. Wow! You made it sound so interesting!

  32. Hi
    Rosidah, great to have you popping in! Take all the time you need to recover. Tho we miss your cheery presence, we can wait :)

    Ai Shiang,you're right, who would think a castle like Kellie's is right here in Malaysia! Thanks for visiting.

    lupie, glad you enjoyed the story. Do pop in again.

  33. This is so a beautiful palace !! I loved the pillars too..Great..Do check my another blog also i.e.Unseen Rajasthan

  34. Hi Unseen Rajasthan, you certainly have some wonderful destinations to show us.I have only been to places like Chennai, Bangalore and Hyderabad.
    Thank you for visiting.

  35. I enjoyed your photo journey through the castle. Its wonderful that it was restored for all to view.

  36. Hi Pam, yes, it's good that Kellie's Castle was restored. I read in the papers about another restoration , of Suffolk House in Penang Island which deserves our commitment too.

  37. Hi Keats, I've seen pictures of Kellie's Castle but none as delightful as yours, which of course have changed my impression of the place. I suppose it's worth a visit now. Thanks.

    Very nice shots, all of them. Thanks for sharing.

    Thank you too for visiting my site.

  38. Hi HappySurfer, thanks so much for your compliments. Gosh! I'm walking on air now! Do visit when you can.

  39. Sunshine girl, this is a well written post. The pictures are great. Cheers!

  40. Hi Autumn Belle, thanks so much for your compliments!


Great to have you popping in!