Once frequented by royalty and aristocrats, this exclusive hideaway is the perfect escape from the hustle and bustle of London.
To the minds of many, the Thames is a river that starts at the edge of the English capital, snakes past iconic sights like Tower Bridge and the Houses of Parliament and ends at the other side. Truth is, most of this 346-kilometre waterway flows outside of London and the scenery is often blissfully bucolic, especially west of the metropolis, where you’ll find Monkey Island.
One of about 180 small islands that dot the Thames, this fish-shaped landmass was a favourite getaway of high society in Victorian and Edwardian times. Now it’s home to a recently renovated five-star stay, run by luxury operator YTL Hotels.
Offering a twist on the classic English country-house retreat, Monkey Island Estate is centred on two 18th-century buildings that were commissioned as an angling base for the third Duke of Marlborough. Choose from 27 rooms, including The Wedgewood Suite, which flaunts original ornate plasterwork and oak-panelled walls.
The estate has a bar and a whisky snug, plus a brasserie that serves afternoon tea and modern British cuisine, such as Cornish seafood dishes and Devonshire duck with scorched kale, wild mushrooms and red wine jus. If you cross the footbridge to the mainland and walk 15 minutes along a sleepy lane (or take the three-minute drive), you’ll find gourmet haven Bray. This quaint village has several Michelin-starred eateries, including The Fat Duck and The Hind’s Head, both by Heston Blumenthal.
Monkey Island guests can indulge in treatments aboard the hotel’s Floating Spa, set on a moored riverboat, enjoy a kayaking adventure or take trips along the Thames to nearby Windsor to tour the castle or explore Windsor Great Park by horseback.
As a bonus, the island is just a 30-minute taxi ride from Heathrow Airport, making it an ideal place to recharge post-flight if you don’t fancy heading straight into the big smoke.
One more thing: don’t expect to encounter actual monkeys here. Mystery cloaks the origin of the name but some say it harks back to the monks who occupied the area in medieval times.