Just outside the town of Batu Gajah, itself a short distance from Ipoh, lies Kellie’s Castle. It’s an odd place, being the remains of a house and a ‘castle’ (I’d say stately home) built for a British man named William Kellie Smith, the latter never completed and both left to rot, consumed by the jungle, before the Perak Government tidied it up at the turn of the Millennium.
Smith was an engineer turned planter, with grand ideas about the design of this home for his young family. He wanted it to have aspects of Indian and Islamic architecture, and even imported labour from India to carry out the building work. Smith appears to have been somewhat generous too, paying for the construction of a Hindu temple for his workers after many were sickened by or died from influenza.
Unfortunately he died before the castle was finished, and his wife and children did not want to carry on the work, returning to Britain instead. Now the ruins are a surprisingly popular tourist attraction. They have also spawned a weird ghost myth, with various people claiming to see the ghost of Smith (who died in Portugal) or that of his infant daughter (who survived into adulthood and I believe died in the UK).
It’s the house which is in a worse state, with just two heavily braced walls in anywhere close to recognisable condition, but you can still see the floor layout and the remnants of the marble tiles shipped in from Italy.
The bright yellow paintwork looks like it must have been a modern (ish!) job, which I found quite cheery. It would have been incongruous in the middle of the jungle, though.
The castle is more interesting. 2, 3 and 4 stories high, depending on which part you are in, it would have been the first building in Malaysia to have a lift, and the lift shaft is visible, though Smith died on his way to pick up the mechanism.
You therefore have to walk up several flights of narrowing stairs to reach the roof where there would have been a perhaps rather dangerous outdoor tennis court. On the roof there are several areas where you can walk with a fairly long drop to the floor below. Keep hold of your kids!
It also provides a good view of the river, the jungle, the mountains of Perak – and the car park complete with ticket office, caricature artists, and a cafe.
On the first floor, there are four large bare bedrooms, some of which have secret passages down to a cellar, and a huge linen cupboard. There isn’t really that much of interest, unless you count making ghost noises down a staircase to startle kids below.
However the ground floor has a little more to commend it. One room is given over to a display of what their living room might have looked like, and another has information boards around the walls. Quite interesting, though there is some repetition and even contradiction.
I certainly wouldn’t recommend making a special trip to see Kellie’s Castle, but if you staying in Ipoh or driving nearby on the North-South highway then you might like to take an hour out of your day to explore. It costs RM10 for foreign adults, RM8 for foreign kids, RM5 for Malaysian adults (with a senior citizen discount of RM1), and RM3 for Malaysian kids.
Address: just off Jalan Gopeng, 31000 Batu Gajah, Perak