My tour of Machakos did not end at the fourteen falls; my next stop was the Macmillan Castle. I had never heard of the castle before. I was excited at the prospect of seeing a castle. In my head all castles look like they do in fairy tales so best believe I was expecting to see turrets and towers.

MacMillan Castle_front2


MacMillan Castle_back1


MacMillan Castle_windvane


This 32-roomed castle has had a glorious past and has seen illustrious guests such as Ewart Grogan, Theodore Roosevelt, Winston Churchill, Sir Evelyn Baring and Prince Amedeo, (Duke of Aosta, the commander of the Italian Forces in what was known as the East Africa Campaign when Italy declared war on the United Kingdom and France on 10th June, 1940 during the Second World War).

MacMillan Castle_front1


MacMillan Castle_plaque2


MacMillan Castle_back


This single-storied, high ceiling castle with underground bunkers was built in the early 1900s by Macmillan. The house was gazetted in Kenya on 19th December, 2008 and plans of turning it into a museum are underway. It seems that they have been underway for quite a while because little to no progress has been made.

MacMillan Castle_back1It is said Sir Macmillan and his wife stayed in each wing for six months before moving to the other.


MacMillan Castle_plaque


MacMillan Castle_side view


MacMillan Castle_side view (2)


Lord William Northrop Macmillan (1872–1925)was a decorated American soldier and knighted by the King of England, even though he was not British. He was a huge man raised in St. Louis, Missouri, United States and arrived in Kenya in 1904 on a shooting expedition.

MacMillan Castle_Lord McMillan

He chose the top of Ol Donyo Sabuk (or Kilimambogo which means Bufallo Hill in Swahili)  as his final resting place, he was buried there with his wife, servant and dog. But for a man his size, getting up the mountain wasn’t easy.

Apparently the clutch of the car broke down following the tractor carrying the coffin up and so the man was laid to rest half-way up. His tombstone is gone; it was vandalised by thieves who thought he had been buried with some of his riches; however the servant’s tombstone is still intact.

MacMillan Castle_gravesite


MacMillan Castle_gravesite1


Sadly there is nothing left of the original furnishings, the house is pretty much an empty shell.

MacMillan Castle_ couch


MacMillan Castle_bathroomWhat used to be a bathroom


MacMillan Castle_interior1 It looks run down which I think is unfortunate for a place with so much history


MacMillan Castle_safeWhat used to be the safe


MacMillan Castle_chandelierdo you notice the chandelier ?


MacMillan Castle_corridor


The castle has had an eventful past. It was a military hospital during the First World War and a prison in the Second World War. In one if the rooms there is a trap door which on lifting, reveals a wooden ladder leading to an underground bunker.

MacMillan Castle_underground bunker5


MacMillan Castle_underground bunker


According to our guide, the prisoners were kept in the underground bunkers. This was definitely the most exciting part of the tour for me. It would not be advisable to go into the bunker if you are claustrophobic.

MacMillan Castle_underground bunker2


MacMillan Castle_underground bunker3


MacMillan Castle_underground bunker4

Excavation of the bunker was still underway by the time we were visiting the castle.

The Macmillan’s did leave a positive legacy in Kenya by building and supporting  the McMillan library in Nairobi. The facility was erected and donated by Lady McMillan in memory of her husband.

I am not too sure if the castle is currently open to the public but if you’re around the area you should drop by.

How to get there:

Drive about 45 minutes on the Thika highway, branching off to the Thika –Garissa road, and turn off at the town of Ol Donyo. You will see signs pointing you to the  Ol donyo Sabuk national park.


KWS offers the Sabuk club house in the park, a self catering lodge, so ensure you have carried enough groceries in case you plan to stay.

There is ample accommodation in Thika town, in case you find the guest house booked.

Finally I’d like to thank Karue for allowing me to use his photographs. Please check out his photography page on Facebook.

Have you voted ?

Safari254 has been nominated for a Bloggers Association of Kenya (BAKE) award in the best travel category. Please spare a minute of your time and VOTE for me.






This week I am linking up with;

1. #SundayTraveler







2. Noel Morata’s Travel Photo Mondays.

3.  Budget Travelers Sandbox Travel Photo Thursday.

Be sure to head there and check them out.

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Fourteen Falls: Beautiful but choking on Pollution
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Northern Kenya - Magical Sunsets


  1. April 14, 2014 at 8:06 am — Reply


  2. Keniamoja
    April 14, 2014 at 8:51 am — Reply

    Very interesting; I’m planning the fourteen falls this easter weekend, maybe I could also add the macmillan castle too.

  3. April 14, 2014 at 10:39 am — Reply

    That is not what I would have expected for a castle. Still, it sounds like it has an interesting history. And what a story about Macmillan’s burial! Too bad that the castle is in such disrepair. I think I’d be too claustrophobic to go inside the underground bunkers.

  4. April 15, 2014 at 4:09 am — Reply

    Very interesting history! Thanks for sharing! 🙂

  5. April 15, 2014 at 4:33 am — Reply

    This looks like a very interesting place to visit, but I think I’d definitely feel claustrophobic in that bunker!

  6. April 15, 2014 at 5:20 am — Reply

    Everyone is writing about temples but I have not read anything on castles and churches, so I am glad I finally came across this post :). This castle looks so powerful and charming. I would love to visit it one day. How long was it to fully explore it?

    • April 16, 2014 at 12:35 am — Reply

      It did not take too long since most of it is empty and some of the rooms were locked. At least 40 minutes tops.

  7. April 15, 2014 at 9:41 am — Reply

    It has a rich history. I’ve to give it a visit one of these fine days.

  8. April 15, 2014 at 10:48 am — Reply

    Rachael, just when I opened your page and saw that first photo, I’ve realized I’ve been missing your posts on the #SundayTraveler. Your photos are so pretty. So sad that the Macmillan Castle is not maintained. It’s a beautiful property.

  9. Hakquim
    April 15, 2014 at 2:53 pm — Reply

    Interesting the place has seen some noteworthy guests. I did not know Theodore Roosevelt (former american president) and Winston Churchill (former british premier)had been to Kenya.
    Ewart Grogan however was a racist nuthead and deserves no mention in Kenyan history.

  10. April 15, 2014 at 3:56 pm — Reply

    Beautiful pictures of the castle.

  11. April 15, 2014 at 8:28 pm — Reply

    When you say castle, this isn’t exactly what I would imagine either 🙂 But it does seem like it has seen its fair share of history. Hopefully the museum will be completed one day and everyone can enjoy this piece of history. Thanks for linking up to the #SundayTraveler!

  12. April 15, 2014 at 9:24 pm — Reply

    I’m claustrophobic but damn my curiosity will still probably win out because the bunkers look interesting. Thanks for linking up to the #SundayTraveler! 🙂

  13. April 16, 2014 at 9:40 am — Reply

    I love this, a Kenyan castle. I love also that they didn’t bother the servant’s grave…next time all the treasure should be buried with the servants methinks!

  14. April 17, 2014 at 7:04 pm — Reply

    I just love castles – and this one looks so different to anything I have ever seen! Thanks for joining us for #SundayTraveler – hope to see you again this Sunday. (PS Good luck in the comp)

  15. April 18, 2014 at 12:27 am — Reply

    Interesting to read about a Castle that doesn’t look like a castle. I guess a Castle in Kenya has got to look different. An interesting tale.

  16. April 18, 2014 at 8:36 pm — Reply

    Neat post! Thanks for sharing. I hadn’t anticipated there being any castles in east Africa. 🙂

  17. April 20, 2014 at 4:38 am — Reply

    Hi Rachel, the exterior look grand and well-preserved. Sad to see that the interior is pretty ran down. Very interesting history, nonetheless.

  18. April 20, 2014 at 10:02 am — Reply

    I never would have expected to find a castle in Kenya and like you, would have have thought turrets and towers. It looks glorious from the outside. It’s sad to see how it’s current state of disrepair and quite a shame for a place with so much history. Thanks for sharing such an interesting story of the Macmillans. I think it would be too nerve wracking to be in that bunker.

  19. Nigel
    April 21, 2014 at 8:57 am — Reply

    Very interesting indeed. You should do a post on the Lord Egerton Castle in Nakuru next time.

  20. April 22, 2014 at 4:05 pm — Reply

    There’s such a sense of abandonment with your photos inside. You have done a fine job of capturing the mood. It would have been magnificent in its heyday.

  21. December 15, 2018 at 7:09 pm — Reply

    Hi i cannot forget donya sabuk my father was the fundi in sisal plant in 1932 and he has mat lucy macmillan she helped my father very much also she used to come to see my father at home sometime i grew up in donyasabuk until 1965 than i left donyasabuk and i went to uk in 1967 my mother new lucy macmillan very well .

  22. Peter
    December 26, 2018 at 6:31 pm — Reply

    Was there today,the place is locked, taken over by the muku makuu community and converted to their offices,I didn’t believe it! Supposed to be a museum…

  23. manilal chitroda
    January 14, 2019 at 1:09 am — Reply

    can anyone find out the land where the castle is who owns it i am intersted m chitroda

  24. Stephen
    August 24, 2021 at 10:11 pm — Reply

    I will visit this area in September 2021, hopefully I find enough alcohol to party like it’s 1900,s when the happy valley soldier McMillan was at his peak?

  25. November 29, 2022 at 6:34 pm — Reply

    Very Interesting, Thank you for posting this. Never seen the inside of the castle.

  26. Martin Ruiga
    December 27, 2023 at 5:01 pm — Reply

    Is this plais this a freemason headquarters?

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