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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
Sadly there is nothing left of the original furnishings, the house is pretty much an empty shell.
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.
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.
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.
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This week I am linking up with;
2. Noel Morata’s Travel Photo Mondays.
3. Budget Travelers Sandbox Travel Photo Thursday.
Be sure to head there and check them out.