One the face of it, this long-established and conventional hotel with 40-plus rooms isn’t right for the guide, but its magical location and a major refurbishment by YTL Hotels mean it cannot be ignored. On a fish-shaped island in the Thames near Bray, its history shines through the new big-brand feel.
Rooms are spread across two buildings. The Barn and Temple rooms are in the Palladian Grade I-listed Temple, built by a Duke of Marlborough in 1723. With their crisp bedding and polished sideboards they are mainstream luxury fare, while the Wedgewood Suite is on another level, windowed on all sides, with oak-panelled walls and magnificent original plasterwork swirling with shells, dolphins and mermaids.
Dining at Monkey Island appeals to international visitors and a wide range of tastes, offering modern takes on British classics and using ingredients sourced from the hotel’s garden and surrounding countryside. The brasserie is a refined dining area, and, like the stylish Monkey Bar, offers lovely views of the Thames. The Whiskey Snug is cosy and classy. Don’t miss The Monkey Room, where a ceiling fresco depicts monkeys fishing and shooting like humans.
The magic continues outside. Contrasting with the dazzling white exterior of the buildings, the grounds are filled with chestnuts, walnuts and limes. The Thames flows gently by on both sides. A floating spa sits moored along one bank, where therapists in nautical attire do massages and facials, using tinctures and liqueurs once made by monks.
The origin of Monkey? An eyot is a small island in a river and it was here, possibly in the 11thC that monks lived and enjoyed the excellent fishing. Later, in the 19thC, it was a popular lunch spot with visitors such as Edward VII and H. G. Wells.