Escape to a hotel on an island in the middle of the Thames: Monkey Island estate review

Where is it? The Monkey Island Estate is over a bridge on a little, green private island in the River Thames, near Bray, Berkshire. Two Grade I-listed pavilions form the hotel, originally commissioned as a fishing retreat in 1723 by the third Duke of Marlborough.

So what’s the pull? There’s the history: the Duke escaped to his fishing idyll for 20 years before dying in 1758, leading to one of the rumoured reasons for the island’s name. Apparently George III was banished here when he went mad, alone but for his pet monkey. Now there’s a floating spa and a lounge adorned with 17th-century frescoes. At one end of the grounds is a chicken coop, smokehouse, herb garden and row of beehives, all of which contribute to breakfasts. At the other are the Shepherd’s Huts, where guests can gather around a fire-pit at night to stargaze.

Star attractions? A trip down the river (with a glass of champagne, if thirsty) will reveal kingfishers, and another private island, this one owned by Eton school. It’s five miles from Windsor Castle, and close to Ascot, and Cliveden, for tea.

Room with a view? To go to sleep in the Wedgwood Suite is to wake up inside a jewellery box. Its ceiling is made up of mermaids and shells in Wedgwood blue plasterwork, mirrored in the bone china tea set laid opposite the bed. Three walls of windows in the dark panelling look out over the lawn and riverbank.

Where’s good to eat? The hotel brasserie offers food all day, but if you’re here for a birthday or anniversary, try one of Bray or Marlow’s fancy restaurants. Otherwise, a picnic on the riverbank on a warm afternoon would be perfect.

When should we visit? For a special occasion. A single night (plus leisurely breakfast) leaves guests feeling like they’ve taken a two-week holiday.
Rooms from £225, monkeyislandestate.co.uk

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