Home Hotel reviewsCountry house hotels Relaxing on the river at Monkey Island hotel, Bray

Relaxing on the river at Monkey Island hotel, Bray

This five star luxury hotel on its own private island has riverside views and landscaped gardens

by Sarah Bridge
monkey island hotel

A stay at Monkey Island hotel

Staying in a luxury hotel on the River Thames is a real treat, not least because it feels worlds away from the hustle and bustle of nearby Heathrow Airport, the M4 and London itself.

Thankfully no outside noise disturbs the peace and calm of the Monkey Island Estate, other than the occasional bird call, or splash of a boat as it makes its way down the river, which is the undoubted benefit of staying in a five star hotel on a private island.

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monkey island hotel in the sunshine

Monkey Island hotel is located on its own private island

Access to Monkey Island hotel is via a footbridge over the river – proof that this is a genuine island – and staff will transport your luggage across from the car park so you don’t have to lift a finger. I was greeted by the effervescent Jose who checked me in within seconds and took me on a tour of the hotel and its grounds.

Monkey Island hotel footbridge across the river

Arrival at Monkey Island hotel is by this charming footbridge over the river

Monkey Island Estate history

Guests would be surprised to learn that the pristine, manicured lawns of Monkey Island, which are perfect for riverside drinks in the sunshine during the summer, are actually resting on the building debris dumped here after the Great Fire of London, which made Monkey Island a viable site on which to build.

If you like hotels on islands, then read about my recent stay at the iconic Burgh Island hotel in Devon

The history of the island itself goes all the way back to the 12th century, when Augustine Monks settled here, giving the island its name of ‘Monks Eyot’ (sorry if you were expecting actual monkeys).

Monkey Island hotel garden

Guests admiring the pristine garden of Monkey Island hotel might be surprised to learn its history

The island has been punching above its weight for the last 800 years, being inhabited by monarchs, aristocrats and artists thanks to its riverside location, but has never lost its quintessentially English charm. Notable guests over the years include King Edward VII, HG Wells and Siegfried Sasson, and one of England’s greatest ever composers, Edward Elgar, composed some of his best music on these very banks.

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In 1956 the island was finally connected to the mainland by the footbridge, and years of society balls and parties followed. Sadly the island was sold in 1980 and its Grade 1 listed building fell into decline, but following years of restoration by its new owners YTL Hotels, Monkey Island hotel is firmly back in the luxury hotel space.

Exploring Monkey Island hotel

Greeting you as you cross the bridge onto Monkey Island are two Grade 1 listed pavilions, originally built as a fishing retreat in 1723 by the third Duke of Marlborough.

These gleaming white buildings, which reminded me of luxury hotel and spa Stoke Park, house the restaurant and bar in one, and most of the hotel’s bedrooms in the other.

Monkey Island hotel bedrooms

This Grade 1 listed building houses many of Monkey Island hotel’s individually-designed bedrooms

There are 40 individually-designed bedrooms at Monkey Island, many of which are in the main hotel building on the island itself, with a few more modern rooms on the mainland.

Book Monkey Island on Booking.com

Visit Monkey Island on Tripadvisor

Wedgewood Suite at Monkey Island

I was lucky to be staying in Monkey Island’s top bedroom, the Wedgewood Suite, which was on the first floor corner and had great views of the grounds and river from three sides.

As you’d expect from the name, the famous Wedgewood blue was very much in evidence, spreading across its spacious ceiling and providing a vibrant contrast to its dark traditional wood panelling.

Monkey Island Hotel Wedgewood Suite

Just like being inside pottery…. the ceiling of the grand Wedgewood Suite was decorated in blue and white

roll top bath in the Wedgewood Suite at Monkey Island hotel

The Wedgewood Suite had a large roll-top bath as well as a separate shower room and WC

The ensuite bathroom is actually two rooms, with a large roll-top bath in one, and a walk-in shower, sinks and WC in the other, all surrounded with spotless white tiles.

Downstairs from the Wedgewood Suite is a smart corner lounge with many windows to make the most of the views, while just a short walk away is the hotel’s brasserie restaurant and bar, plus outdoor dining terrace.

Monkey Island hotel lounge

Downstairs from the bedrooms is a pillared lounge with cosy seating and views across Monkey Island Estate

Shepherds Hideaway at Monkey Island

As well as the perfectly manicured gardens, which looked stunning in the summer sunshine, there was a vast lawn leading across to a Shepherds Hut, or, as it is known at Monkey Island, the ‘Shepherds Hideaway‘.

Billed as the ‘ultimate romantic island retreat,’ this stylish hut can be booked as part of your stay, as a cosy snug during the winter months for toasting marshmallows under the stars – the hut has a woodburner to keep things cosy – or a rustic sun trap and picnic spot in summer.

Monkey Island hotel Shepherds Hut

The converted ‘Shepherds Hideway’ acts as a romantic bolthole in the winter and a place for al fresco drinks in the summer

Boat trip on the River Thames

During my stay, I was delighted to be able to make the most of Monkey Island’s riverside location and enjoy a private boat trip along the Thames.

boat moored at Monkey Island's private jetty

My transport awaited me on Monkey Island’s private jetty

My experienced boat captain met me on the hotel’s private jetty and for the next hour or so I was treated to a relaxing boat trip along the river, past some stunning houses and gardens, Bray Marina and even Bray Studios, the home of Hammer House of Horror.

inside the boat on the thames

The interior of the boat ride along the Thames was stylish and traditional

Monkey Island spa

Back on dry land, it was time for the ultimate relaxing experience, a floating massage at Monkey Island’s floating spa. Moored on the banks of Monkey Island, this luxury barge has been refitted as a luxury spa to ensure guests return to dry land completely relaxed – (booking in advance is essential though).

Monkey Island hotel floating spa

Monkey Island spa is a refurbished barge on the River Thames

Walking from my private boat to my private spa across a private island certainly felt like a five star hotel experience. The barge itself was kitted out in style with small but perfectly formed treatment rooms and a waiting area which soaked up the views.

Monkey Island's floating spa treatment rooms

The stylish treatment rooms at Monkey Island’s floating spa

My ‘floating massage’ meant that I lay on my back on an aqua-cushion waterbed which cradled my body and the mild bobbing of the water only added to the relaxing massage itself, expertly delivered by my masseuse, Sophie.

Dinner at Monkey Island brasserie

After all this relaxing, it was a minor miracle that I made it to Monkey Island restaurant at all. Thankfully it was just a short walk from my luxury suite to the Brasserie which is decorated in a modern European style with windows which, like much of the Monkey Island estate, made the most of the river views.

It was a large restaurant but only a few tables were occupied when I was there (midweek summer break) which could be a one-off, or maybe guests choose to make the most of Monkey Island’s proximity to three Michelin star restaurants – The Waterside Inn, The Fat Duck and The Hind’s Head pub (the last two both from Heston Blumenthal) – are all located in Bray.

Brasserie restaurant Monkey Island

The Brasserie restaurant made the most of the views across the River Thames

I wasn’t phased by having the restaurant mainly to myself, and enjoyed not having to wait for anything, with Harrison the waiter providing drinks and food with effortless charm.

The menu was modern European with some classic dishes and I couldn’t resist the Monkey Island Prawn Cocktail to start, which was exactly as I hoped it would be – a deliciously piquant blast from the past.

Monkey Island hotel Brasserie menu

The menu at Monkey Island Brasserie was classic, traditional cuisine with a modern twist

Monkey Island prawn cocktail

I couldn’t resist the Monkey Island prawn cocktail to start

I then really indulged and went for the 8 oz aged West Country Beef Fillet with foie gras, a hearty sticky delight, with watercress and roast hispi cabbage and bacon on the side, which really tipped the dish into an epic feast.

Rather than go all-out with a dessert, I only had room for some lovely petit fours and then it was off to my luxury suite for the night.

8 oz aged West Country Beef Fillet with foie gras

My main course of 8 oz aged West Country Beef Fillet with foie gras, a hearty sticky delight, with watercress and roast hispi cabbage and bacon on the side

petit fours Monkey Island

Little sweet treats to finish off the evening

Monkey Island hotel breakfast

Waking up to views of Monkey Island on all sides of my epic bed was a great way to start the day, and I felt as if I could have happily spent all day pottering around my spacious suite. In spite of last night’s blow-out though, I was intrigued by the breakfast options at the hotel, so headed back to the Brasserie.

Sadly the weather had turned in classic British summer style, but Monkey Island has umbrellas everywhere, so I borrowed one for the short walk across the garden.

The Monkey Island Brasserie breakfast menu wasn’t vast but it had everything I look for in luxury hotel breakfast, namely some classic cooked options, cereals, pastries, fruit and yoghurt.

breakfast menu Monkey Island hotel

The breakfast menu wasn’t very but had all my preferred options

These days, I can’t resist trying hotel’s fresh yoghurt and this was lovely, plus the waitress kindly bought me a vast fruit salad to sample. This, along with some excellent espresso coffee and orange juice, was a great start to breakfast.

Things only got better with the arrival of my delicious Egg Benedict which looked and tasted great, and even though the rain was coming down I felt very well looked on the Monkey Island Estate.

coffee, juice, yoghurt and fruit

A great start to any breakfast – coffee, juice, yoghurt and fruit

Eggs Benedict Monkey Island

My Eggs Benedict was perfectly presented and tasted great too

Bray Lake

In spite of the rain, I went for a post-breakfast walk across to the mainland and discovered that the hotel is located just a few minutes’ walk from the 50 acre Bray Lake, a popular spot for walkers, runners, hikers and rowers.

There was a group of swimmers training in the lake while I walked around, and there seems to be lots of watersport activities available, including Stand Up Paddle Boarding, windsurfing, kayaking and dinghy sailing and open water swimming.

The Bray Lake Centre is open seven days a week and offers equipment hire, holiday courses and private tuition.

It was with great reluctance that I headed back over the footbridge for the final time. Monkey Island hotel isn’t one of the flashiest five star hotels around, and it is rather pricey considering what other five star hotels offer in the way of spa facilities and Michelin star dining, but its private island and luxurious surroundings provides a unique oasis of calm.

Hotel information and to book Monkey Island hotel

Monkey Island Hotel,
Monkey Island Estate,
Berkshire SL6 2EE
[email protected]
Telephone: +44 (0) 1628 623 400

Book Monkey Island on Booking.com

Visit Monkey Island on Tripadvisor

Getting to Monkey Island

Monkey Island is located near the village of Bray, one mile downstream from Maidenhead and is within easy reach of
Windsor and London.

Bray itself is a lovely, picturesque village which dates back to before the Doomsday Book of 1067. It is now firmly on the food map thanks to the three Michelin star restaurants – The Waterside Inn, The Fat Duck and The Hind’s Head pub (the last two both from Heston Blumenthal) – are all located in the village, and driving through Bray really sets the scene for an isolated, relaxing stay.

Monkey Island Estate is located down a quiet country lane where guests will find a car park. There, staff will greet you, check you into the hotel and carry your bags across the footbridge to your room.

Looking for riverside hotels?

Danesfield House hotel and spa, relaxation on the Thames

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My stay at Cliveden House hotel (favourite of poets, players and princesses)

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