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Monkey Island Estate, Bray: this Berkshire bolthole delivers on decadence

Evening Standard logo Evening Standard 2/3/2023 Samantha Herbert

The serenity, seclusion, and elegance of Monkey Island Estate feels a thousand miles from the bustle of London; but now linked by the Elizabeth Line, in less than an hour, it makes the ultimate weekend escape.

Set on a picturesque island in the River Thames, the hotel is welcoming, cosy, and boasts impeccable service. Entering its two Grade I listed pavilions steeped in history and old-time glamour feels like stepping back to the glory days of British hospitality.

Surrounded by nature, and complete with a floating spa, bar, and fine brasserie, Monkey Island has all you could need for a rejuvenating trip from the city.

Monkey Island Estate sits on the Thames, Bray (Monkey Island Estate) © Provided by Evening Standard Monkey Island Estate sits on the Thames, Bray (Monkey Island Estate)


Monkey Island Estate is set on a private island downriver of the historic village of Bray, Berkshire. A hotspot of culinary excellence, Bray boasts three Michelin-starred restaurants — two run by Heston Blumenthal and the third by the Roux brothers. The charming village is a gastronomist’s delight, as well as a spectacular beauty spot, just 53 minutes from central London. Linked now by TfL’s Elizabeth line to Maidenhead, the journey couldn’t be easier, with regular fast trains that will whisk you from Liverpool Street to country idyl in under an hour.

The Monkey Room’s ornate Renaissance ceiling (Monkey Island Estate) © Provided by Evening Standard The Monkey Room’s ornate Renaissance ceiling (Monkey Island Estate)


Built as a fishing retreat in 1723 by the third Duke of Marlborough, Monkey Island Estate sits on a sliver of land encircled by undisturbed nature. From the rooms, restaurant, and spa, one can enjoy unimpeded views of the thriving wildlife of the river, and the estate’s seven acres of beautifully maintained garden.

Set across two delicately refurbished grade I-listed pavilions, Monkey Island Estate oozes timeless countryside glamour while offering all the modern comforts and amenities you could need. Great care has been taken here to keep as many original features as possible, transporting guests back in time with fantastic decadence.

The Grade I listed Wedgewood Suite (Monkey Island Estate) © Provided by Evening Standard The Grade I listed Wedgewood Suite (Monkey Island Estate)

Which room?

Monkey Island Estate has 40 exquisite guest rooms, each with a unique finish and a stunning view of the Thames. For ultimate opulence, choose the Grade 1-listed Wedgewood Suite, which comprises a grand wood-panelled master bedroom, separate seating area, dressing room, and en-suite bathroom complete with roll-top bath.

From your bed, gaze up to a breathtaking corniced ceiling, while from every other direction take in stunning panoramic views of the river and gardens which flood the suite with light. The attention to detail in this room is magnificent, with extreme care taken to preserve its immense history, while also delivering top-quality fixtures and features which ensure the most comfortable and luxurious stay.

Monkey Island Brasserie (Monkey Island Estate) © Provided by Evening Standard Monkey Island Brasserie (Monkey Island Estate)

Food & drink

Surrounded by Michelin-starred neighbours, the food and drink at Monkey Island Estate has a high bar to reach. In the main brasserie, executive head chef Justin Gabriel-Brown rises to the occasion with a selection of unique takes on classic British dishes. Either within the sleek but cosy dining room, or outside on the terrace, diners can enjoy a hearty three-course meal packed with regional produce, while overlooking the river.

In the Monkey Bar, guests similarly can enjoy a fantastic range of local wines and even the hotel’s very own Monkey IPA.

Afternoon tea is also served throughout the day in the restaurant, or for an extra-special treat in The Monkey Room, famed for its stunning Renaissance ceiling. Sitting by an open fire, surrounded by art and history, enjoy a delectable selection of sweets and savouries which rival that of any top hotel — including a very impressive range to suit all dietary requirements.

The Floating Spa, Monkey Island Estate (Monkey Island Estate) © Provided by Evening Standard The Floating Spa, Monkey Island Estate (Monkey Island Estate)


Set in the beautiful Berkshire countryside, there’s an abundance of outdoor activities to enjoy around Monkey Island Estate. From country walks, to private boat trips direct from the hotel’s jetty, the knowledgeable staff is able to organise and advise on a huge range of trips.

If you’re looking to stay closer to home, book a relaxing treatment on the Floating Spa. Situated on a narrowboat docked alongside the island, the spa offers ultimate serenity and ease. To really make use of the unique setting, opt for the floating massage, delivered on a heated water bed to the natural sounds of the river.

Given the area’s unusually high density of Michelin stars, it is also apt that the estate should run private cooking workshops to take some of the fine dining skills back home. Available for small- and medium-sized groups, guests are guided through the creation of three dishes, before enjoying a full three-course meal in the restaurant.

Best for…

A weekend escape from the city. Ideal for those looking to indulge, Monkey Island Estate delivers decadence on all fronts. From its spectacular interiors, to panoramic natural beauty, proximity to gastronomic delights, and impeccable service — if you’re in need of some peace, surrounded by nature, but still enjoying every luxury imaginable, this is a convenient getaway you won’t forget.


Nightly rates at Monkey Island Estate start from £275, per room, per night in a Temple Room

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