Yes, a castle
Published/Last edited or updated: 5th August, 2019
A castle might not be the first thing that springs to mind when you think of Malaysia, but just 20km south of Ipoh, sits Kellie’s Castle.
The dream of Scot William Kellie Smith, the “castle” and the house behind it were intended as family residences. Construction of Kellas House took place in 1909. There he lived with his wife and daughter, but his dreams were far grander.
In 1915 he started planning the far more elaborate Kellie’s Castle. Bringing together Scottish, Moorish and Indian architecture, the plans included a six floor tower, an indoor tennis court and a rooftop courtyard. All the bricks and marble used in the construction were imported from India, as were 70 craftsmen from Madras.
The tower was to feature Malaysia’s first ever elevator. This lift was to be his downfall as while in Europe taking delivery of the elevator, he died of pneumonia. The castle was never totally completed.
Kellas House was badly damaged during the war. Still, you can see today some of the marble that covered the walls on the upper floors. The castle meanwhile is said to be haunted by a ghost who wanders the first floor veranda at night.
Today a visit is worthwhile to wander the castle room by room. Each is labelled in English, explaining the purpose of the room. Note the secret stairwell and there are a couple of tunnels leading off from the affair. Even in their semi-ruined, half-built states, it is easy to imagine what Kellie was aiming for.
Do follow the stairs all the way up to the rooftop courtyard (and helipad) for expansive views. Take care if exploring with kids, as some sections are poorly roped off and quite dangerous.
The castle is a popular venue for wedding photos and can get busy—aim for a morning visit if you can. The castle was used as a set in the filming of the 1999 film Anna and the King.
Kellie’s Castle is around 20km due south of Ipoh. The easiest way to get here is to get it included on a tour of the outlying sites around Ipoh (most tours include it). Independently, hiring a Grab there and back is the most time effective way of visiting.
Stuart McDonald co-founded Travelfish.org with Samantha Brown in 2004. He has lived in Thailand, Cambodia and Indonesia, where he worked as an under-paid, under-skilled language teacher, an embassy staffer, a newspaper web-site developer, freelancing and various other stuff. His favourite read is The Art of Travel by Alain de Botton.
These tours are provided by Travelfish partner GetYourGuide.