Saturday, December 14, 2013

Kellie's Castle - An Abandoned, Haunted Ruin That Was Well Worth The Travel @ Ipoh [Perak, Malaysia]

I first heard about Kellie's castle a few years ago, on a travel programme that was promoting places to go in Malaysia; aside from stories of paranormal sightings, it was also the exceptional Roman-Moorish-Indo-Saracenic architecture that drew my attention.

The long distance to Ipoh delayed my plans to visit the infamous ruin but no matter what, it's better to be late than never; i finally stepped onto its ground two weeks ago! 

Situated next to a flowing river on a small, landscaped hill, the buildings radiated an impressiveness so strong; i just stood marvelling at the picture right in front of me. 

Originally named as Kellas House, the premise was eventually known as Kellie's Castle. At times, people would also call it Kellie's Folly. So what was the folly that our dear Mr Kellie made? 

Pay for your ticket, step across the bridge and you would get slightly closer to your answer.

Mr William Kellie Smith, was borne in Scotland in 1870 and at the age of 20, travelled to the then Malaya where he got rich, married his childhood sweetheart and eventually settled down in the country where he made his fortune. 

It should have been a lived-happily-ever-after kind of story except that life is never perfect and the man passed away at the age of 56 years old with apparently one regret; the incomplete castle that he spent his whole life building.  

What you see here were the ruins of a brick mansion built in 1909 and there was a gap of six years before the connected tower block commenced construction to become the eventual castle we know today.

It would have been a prettier picture if not for World War Two, which saw the partial destruction of what was once a beautiful house. A wooden bungalow, which served as the very first home of the Kellie's family, was said to be connected to this brick mansion although i guess it was fully destroyed.

Do feel free to walk around; structurally, it was unsafe but the operator of this attraction had taken steps to ensure that visitors are able to explore the area safely. Well, at least for the ground level. 

Pathway leading to the original entrance of the castle. I didn't walk there as it didn't appear to have anything more than just an insignificant gateway.

There were remnants to the mansion that were still visible despite the extensive damage caused by the great war and communist insurgency; imported Italian marble that used to adorn the bathroom walls. 

Dad taking photograph after photograph of the castle. My dad was an avid photographer (guess his genes were passed to me) although he has not been taking pictures since digital photography gained prominence. For this trip, i passed him my old Nikon D5000 and encouraged him to revisit the joy of photography. 

Dining hall in Kellie's second house - the floor was actually renovated in recent times in 2003. I am actually very puzzled by some of the information pasted on the walls with regard to the Kellie's various houses in the same compound. 

Information pasted on the walls indicated the brick mansion as Kellie's first home whereas i understand from another collateral in the main exhibition hall (we would come to that shortly) that the first home was the wooden bungalow, not a brick mansion. Tsk tsk tsk, inconsistency! 

Mom standing underneath a doorway that was part of the connecting corridor to the last extension of Kellas House; recognised nowadays as the key facade of Kellie's Castle. 

To the sides was the kitchen area which included kitchen staff quarters. Nothing much except for overgrown weeds in really constricted spaces. 

My mother identified this immediately before i could even open my mouth; an old school oven made up of bricks that were easily over a hundred years! 

Was this a century-old well? Nay, our dear Mr Kellie was a person who seemed obsessive with the safety of his family and this well-like structure was a ventilation hole for one of four tunnels he commissioned under his house. 

Now's the time for us to check out the last yet most prominent extension for William's not so humble abode. 

Drawing from his deep set affection with the Hindu religion and Indian culture, the white man employed many labourers who hailed from India to build this iconic home with South Asian architectural influences.  

Ground level comprised of six main areas; the dining hall which we see here, reading room, living room, main hall, family altar and the bar lounge which was locked. 

Joining the dining hall was a smaller room with a narrow, spiral staircase leading down to a secret enclosure for the family in event of emergencies. Honestly, i think the man has made quite a number of enemies in his heyday to have resulted in such an obsession with home security. 

It would be interesting to see the layout with furnishing in the secret enclosure since it wasn't that secret in my opinion. Not with windows that any right minded criminals would be able to spot right away. 

The 'ambassador' we engaged for the day shared with us that the mansion was a haunted spot many locals loved to explore before it became a tourist attraction. Even now, the operator often banked on the supposed haunting to attract visitors.

One such haunting was that some visitors would hear voices when they stepped into the reading room; echoes of parties that were once held within the castle.

All rooms were stripped bare of any furniture with the exception of one which had a metal gate to bar curious visitors from venturing forward.

This refurnished living room provided visitors with a glimpse of the past even thought i wasn't unsure if it was the exact same replica of the same living room almost a hundred years ago.

Adjourned to the living room was the main hall with hanging posters that gave much more information of Smith's family and the castle, including rare photographs showing the buildings and fully furnished rooms! 

These photographs, giving us a great insight to the decorations then, were kindly supplied by the granddaughter, Frances Boston-Smith. 

Map showing the first two levels of the castle wing.

Family Altar - the family was Catholic and the bricks you see in the pictures were made locally by Madras Indians. The items on the table were not religious items; merely bricks and marbles found in the premises.

Checking out what lies beyond the black metal door; next to it should be the locked entrance to the bar lounge. No idea why it was locked.

Following a dark passage to a lower level, we came to a wine cellar that could hold more than 3,000 bottles of liquor! There was actually another staircase that would lead us down to an underground tunnel. Sadly, it had been sealed due to safety reasons. 

Staircase leading up to the first level (or second floor according to Singaporeans as the ground level was effectively the first floor in Singapore). 

Cloister Corridor that had a reported paranormal sighting by a Canadian couple who came to Kellie's Castle to take pictures of nocturnal creatures. It was after the shoot that the woman saw a ghostly figure of a man looking out from the window of the balcony at the end of the corridor. 

Rumoured to be the spirit of William Kellie Smith, who wanted to guard his mansion from trespassers even though he died in Portugal and was buried in the British Cemetery. For those who are interested to spend a night in Kellie's Castle may send an email to

Linen room that was quite common in big houses during the Victorian era. 

Mouldy walls - notice that inverted palm like mark next to the bigger patch?

This level houses four bedrooms in total and each one has its own narrow staircase that leads to the ground level. Once again, this reflected the disturbing obsession that William had.

I mentioned four tunnels previously with one connecting the Castle to a Hindu temple five hundred meters away, another to a garage and the third one to the road in the east. The last one was said to exist but had yet to be discovered. Rumours abound that it was used as an execution hub when the area was invaded by the Japanese during the second world war. 

View of the outside.

The largest bedroom on the level - the master bedroom. Natural ventilation was key to keeping the building cool, especially during the sweltering summer season. 

Stories of a little girl, said to be Helen (William's daughter), with curly hair and wearing a white blouse was said to have been sighted in the daughter's room. The funny thing was that Helen was over twenty years old when she left Malaya with her father. 

Bird shit on the floor!! Be careful where you stepped! 

Up to the second level (or third floor to us Singaporeans) where i was faced with a challenge to meet my fear for heights! More on that soon!

A lift shaft that would have housed the very first elevator in the whole of Malaya. William was on his way to collect the lift in London when he was struck with pneumonia in Lisboa and died shortly after. Thought there would be some ghost stories surrounding the lift but there were none. 

Another guest room!

This was the level that took my breath away; not because i was in awe. I was in fact very scared! Despite the lack of any safety barriers, the parents gamely walked over (without any hesitation if i may add) to the end and marvelled at the surroundings. 

Damn, i cannot lose to them! With clenched teeth, I climbed up to this half completed compound which would have been the planned indoor tennis court and rooftop party area. 

Dad was already at the edge and gleefully asked me to take a photo of him! As the son, i lost big time! 

Mom, as usual, could not stand the sun and proceeded indoor shortly after this picture. 

Please remember to rein in your hyperactive children! One missed step and you can say bye bye to your loved ones. Even though fences can be installed to prevent such mishaps, i personally think this would have destroyed the historical architecture that attracted many people to visit in the first place.

The view was splendid and i can so imagine notable socialites from the city enjoying themselves under the starry night. Bloody, i just noticed there were a few houses behind the pavilion! 

Right ahead of us was the visitors centre where you can find an unmanned information counter, washrooms and an outlet selling drinks and snacks.

If you have noticed, the three of us were practically the whole place to ourselves; the benefit of visiting on a weekday even though it was the scheduled school holiday for both Singapore and Malaysia. Visitors only started streaming in after we left at around 10am. 

Kellie's Castle was also known to be called Agnes' Palace in the old days as Agnes, wife of William, supplied the money to build the castle as a result of a inheritance she received. 

Let's touch on the folly; William's social status was not generally accept with some laughing behind his back that he succeeded because of his wife's inheritance. 

In order to gain approval and acceptance from others, he embarked on the plan to build a house that was even grander than the residence of the powerful Resident of Taiping when he should have channeled the funds to advance his business.  

The abandoned guard house which protected the back of the castle. 

Ventilation pillars for the underground room. 

Last view of the castle before we called it a day! So what would be a good time to plan your visit? One hour should be sufficient for most people and you should target either early in the morning (as we did at around 9am) or later in the afternoon.


Located near to the town of Batu Gajah. 
Use GPS - N 4° 28.525 E 101° 05.262

Ticket Price
As above; foreigners paid slightly more. 

Additional Information
In my case, i actually requested help from this lady called Jammy to arrange for transport for a day tour. You may contact her via facebook; just search for "My Ipoh Holiday".


  1. Brilliant photos and commentary ... pertinent information and suggestions. Thank you, I certainly enjoyed this post.

    1. Thanks, Francyn! Do help share with your friends if you enjoy any of the postings. :)


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