Monkey Island Estate
What We Love
- Historic 18th-century frescoes in the property’s all-day lounge, The Monkey Room
- Reimagined interiors by the New York-based Champalimaud Design, the group behind Gainsborough Bath Spa
- Wedgewood blue ceilings
- Afternoon tea on the lawn
What To Know
- The hotel can only be accessed by footbridge or boat
- Barn Doubles feature walk-in showers
- The estate’s previous avatar hosted writers such as HG Wells and Rebecca West
- A secret staircase leads to a cozy whisky bar
- Free WiFi
- Parking On Site
- Pet Friendly
Former medieval monastery and Georgian hermitage turned exclusive estate, with a floating spa and a modern British brasserie
It was the 3rd Duke of Marlborough who first spruced up this petite private isle on the River Thames in 1723, recruiting a Palladian architect to build a luxurious retreat for artists and aristocrats. Remnants from that historic heyday are the noble white-brick exterior and one-of-a-kind monkey paintings—scenes that depict the primates shooting, fishing and smoking—in the property’s parlor. Its 30 rooms and suites, however, were resplendently restored, eschewing countryside kitsch for an understated Art Deco aesthetic. Most exciting is the property’s new spa, a custom-designed barge with a trio of treatment rooms. Splurge for the Monks’ Elixir (inspired by the island’s original Augustinian inhabitants, who settled along the nearby river and established fishing ponds in the 12th century), a 90-minute ritual that features a full body massage with house-cured herbal oils infused with aromatics like frankincense and arnica. Let the sensory spree continue at the hotel’s own brasserie, complete with an open-kitchen, a striking wine wall, and a custom-built hickory smokehouse.
In the Area
Monkey Island Estate is located near the village of Bray, an increasingly popular weekend break destination about thirty miles from London reachable by train: a 40-minute ride from Paddington will bring you to Maidenhead station, which is about a ten-minute drive from the footbridge that leads to the property. Though it’s all too easy to dismiss the estate’s bucolic backdrop as a remote village, Monkey Island is actually home to two three-Michelin-starred restaurants (The Fat Duck by Heston Blumenthal and Alain Roux’s The Waterside Inn) so you’ll be surprisingly well fed in this part of the Berkshire countryside.
How to Get There
I was invited by this venue on its re-opening to see what they have to offer for weddings. Whilst there I enjoyed an exquisite meal at the Brasserie of Fish and Chips and was honestly the best I have had. Highly recommend the food if you are in the area, or even a special trip up. The rest of the hotel and spa is just gorgeous and definitely worth a stay over too.
We made a mistake in staying here during our recent trip to Europe. This newly restored hotel is a pretty building sited in an lovely spot on the River Thames. In many ways it has many of the things that make for a great hotel, but......
We travel a lot, and I don't mind paying a lot of money for quality, but this place charges a premium price for dire and slapstick service. The owner and manager have simply failed to grasp the basic premise of what running a luxury hotel is all about: excellent service.
This is where Monkey Island fails to perform. It seems to have employed a bunch of young and unsmiling staff who are untrained; a general manager who has failed to lead and inspire and a head chef, who based on our experience, cannot cook at the level required for this price point.
It was a difficult to find and soulless place, lacking any atmosphere. When we were there the place was half empty. The whole experience was unremarkable and totally unmemorable.
The identikit and weak nature of the responses from the manager to other online reviews just sums this place up. Other than taking your money they don't seem to care, so why should you?
We will not be returning and would advise anyone considering a stay here to seriously think again.
An old friend and I had lunch at Monkey Island Estate today. It was a wonderful experience, we didn't book so it was lovely to be welcomed so warmly by the serving staff. Service and food was excellent, cannot fault it in anyway. Honestly the best lunch in a very long time and the price was very reasonable for the standard of food and service. Will be returning very soon.