If you are traveling via the Simpang Pulai way to or from Cameron Highlands, there’s an interesting ruin known as Kellie’s Castle located at a ridge somewhere near Batu Gajah. It has a unique charm by itself and an interesting historical past. Getting there is not difficult. It is a slight detour from the journey to Cameron Highland and a short drive about 15km from the Simpang Pulai toll gate.
Transport and Access Roads to Kellie’s Castle
Starting from the toll gate, make a first right from the traffic light, at the next traffic light crossroad, turning right would take you to Cameron Highlands, but turning left in the opposite direction will lead you on the way to the mysterious Kellie’s Castle.
There is a small sign before the crossroad indicating the way to Kellie’s Castle. But after that, the signage direction is woefully non-existent. But not to worry, if you follow my rough map as guide, it should lead you there in a jiffy.
A short distance later passing by some limestone hills, there’s a left turn with a sign to Clearwater Sanctuary Golf Resort, take that and proceed straight all the way till the end of the road where there’s a t-junction. Take a left from here, and short distance away towards the right is Kellie’s Castle.
There’s an entrance fee, for adults is RM5, while for children is RM2.
The Story Behind Kellie’s Castle
Kellie’s Castle was built by a William Kellie Smith some one hundred years ago. It was never quite completed due to his untimely death. It was left incomplete and in ruins with much vandalism marring its facade and unfulfilled majesty till it was highlighted in the papers some years ago recently.
Since then, it was clean up and restored in some ways to show its beautiful architecture and give it a breath of life so to speak. However, just visiting it doesn’t give it much meaning unless one knows a little of its unfortunate tragic story behind it.
Kellie’s Castle was built by William Kellie Smith, a Scottish planter, as love gift for his wife, Agnes. William was born in Dallas, North Eastern Scotland to farmer parents on 1st March, 1870. At the age of 20, he traveled to Malaya to seek his fortune.
He met up with an estate owner named Alma Baker, who has secured some concession from the state government to make public roads in South Perak. From this venture, William was able to make a tidy profit from this project and used the proceeds to buy up 1,000 acres of jungle land in the Kinta District to grow rubber trees. He named the estate Kinta Kellas after his home farm, Easter Kellas.
Rubber was in great demand at the time, and his wealth was increased. He even owned a tin dredging company called the Kinta Kellas Tin Dredging Company.
In 1896, he built his first mansion, the Kellas House as a symbol of his prosperity. His fortune made, he returned to Scotland to marry his sweetheart, Agnes, and brought her over to Malaya. The following year after their arrival, the couple was blessed with a daughter, Helen.
For many years after, William desperately wanted a son to inherit his estate. After many years, Agnes finally conceived and gave birth to a son named Anthony in 1915. William must have been overjoyed for he decided to build a castle next to his mansion and called it Kellas House. It seemed owning a castle was all the rage at that time in England for people who have made their fortune, and William followed the trend of that time.
The architecture of the castle was a mix of Moorish architecture and some style to the city of Madras, as William had some fascination with the Hindu religion and Indian culture. Bricks, tiles and marbles were imported from India, and 70 Indian labourers mostly from Madras were brought in to build as authentically as possible the Madras styled castle.
Unfortunately, tragedy struck during the construction. A deadly strain of Spanish Flu spread from Europe to Asia, and many of the workers were stricken and died from the virus. A superstitious William listened to the request of the workers to build a Hindu temple to appease the gods to grant them protection against the disease. The construction of the castle was put on hold while the workers frantically constructed a Hindu temple nearby. After the temple was completed, construction of the Kellas House resumed.
William made a trip back to England in 1926 to meet up with his wife, Agnes who had returned earlier. On his return to Malaya, he made a detour to Lisbon, Portugal to collect his elevator lift for his castle. This was one fateful trip for William as he contracted pneumonia and succumbed to it. William passed away in Lisbon leaving a distraught Agnes.
Agnes wanted nothing to do with the Kellas estate and sold the property, never to return to Malaya. And as for the children, Anthony Kellie Smith died in battle during World War II, while Helen remained in England.
With no one to look after Kellie’s Castle it was just simply left to ruins and pretty much vandalized for many, many years. It was highlighted in the papers some years back and the historical building society decided to restore it and give it back some dignity.
The Ins and Outs of Kellie’s Castle
The construction of Kellie’s Castle was very unique at that time. It was to boast an elevator, a first in Malaya and pretty much unheard of at that time. The elevator was to connect from ground right up to the top floor.
There exist two underground tunnels that run under the river. One tunnel leads to the Hindu temple. The tunnels were discovered quite by accident during a road construction in 2003. It was rumoured that Kellie might have hidden his car in another of the yet undiscovered tunnels! For safety, the authorities have sealed off the tunnels, so any would be intrepid explorers won’t go treasure hunting!
The second floor was to be an indoor tennis court, and on the highest floor it was to be a rooftop courtyard for parties! The rooftop is still accessible, though if you have vertigo and fear of heights, then your trip to the rooftop would give your legs the shivers! There are no safety bars at the rooftop so going up there would be at your own risk!
Sculptures of William Kellie Smith and his two children are still standing on the exterior wall; however the sculpture of his beloved wife fell off many years ago.
And if you have the time, do take a short walk to the Hindu temple constructed by Smith to appease the gods for the protection of workers during the Spanish flu. The architecture of the temple is a strange blend of Moorish, Greco-Roman and Indian design. What is really unique is a misplace figurine of Kellie in his plantar’s suit among the sixty deities on the temple roof! And of course there is the hidden tunnel that leads from his castle to this temple!
I missed out exploring a few of the things mentioned above as I was caught in the rain and had to give it a miss. But why not give this place visit if you have the time!