Set on a private island on the River Thames in Bray, Berkshire, Monkey Island Estate is a hidden treasure. This grade 1 residence was originally designed as a fishing retreat in 1723 by the third Duke of Marlborough and has welcomed monarchs, aristocrats and artists. We were delighted to be invited to see all that the Monkey Island Estate had to offer, a gorgeous fusion of historic glamour and modern luxury.
Stepping onto the island was like taking a breath of fresh air – private and quiet, we instantly felt a calming wave of relaxation wash over us. Crossing the bridge, I have never seen the Thames look more beautiful, and we spotted the hotel’s floating spa, which we would experience later in our trip. Cedric, the general manager, was so welcoming, and we felt at home from the moment we were greeted.
The main building is imposing with its clean white exterior and striking façade. The hotel has 40 rooms, and our suite was in the Temple building, recently refurbished.
Views down to the river and picturesque willow tree, you can watch boats passing by from the bed, and the balcony demands you to stay and watch the river for a while. Quiet and peaceful, this is a perfect retreat. The room itself was beautiful and well-appointed, with a grey marble-floored bathroom with Aromatherapy Associates toiletries and calming, soothing lavender accessorising the space.
We couldn’t wait to explore the island, and taking in the manicured lawns and gardens was a lovely way to spend the afternoon. We had lunch in The Monkey Bar, welcomed by Christopher, and enjoyed views over the river from the beautiful garden terrace whilst we devoured a warm green salad with new potatoes and a delicious dressing.
A private river cruise
Being an island, there are a few special treats to enjoy at Monkey Island Estate! We escaped on a private boat to float up the river. It was an exquisite boat, with Steven as captain, who has been running boats on the river for over 30 years. There’s nothing he doesn’t know about the Thames, and we could have stayed on his boat all day! This would be a gorgeous way for a bride to arrive at the estate for her wedding.
The snug shepherd’s hut
Another treat was waiting for us, as Cedric and Costas showed us to the estate’s very own shepherd’s hut. The hut had a sweet little hideaway, a wood-burning fire, soft and cosy blankets, and a snug seating area – perfect for curling up and enjoying a good book.
With their own chickens and salmon smoker, Monkey Island Estate would be an ideal place for a whole weekend of wedding celebrations. I can imagine guests relaxing at the shepherd’s hut, wandering through the gardens and sitting by the river, watching the rowers and boats go by.
Eating at Monkey Island Estate
Dinner was enjoyed in the Monkey Island Brasserie, where I loved the décor – green palm trees and monkeys – perfectly in keeping with the estate. A warm evening invited us to sit outside, and we sampled estate-smoked salmon, roasted chicken in a beautiful sauce and a dessert of English strawberries with meringue and cream. An Aperol cocktail whilst the sunset was a perfect way to end the day.
The lavender spray that scented our room was so fragrant but not needed to aid our slumber as we slept so soundly. Then a delicious breakfast omelette prepared me for my visit to the floating spa – the first of its kind.
The Floating Spa at Monkey Island Estate
Sophie greeted me as I boarded and offered me a beautiful vintage glass with sparkling water with pomegranate seeds and rose. It was so tranquil, with some amazing treatments. My Celestial Light Facial lasted a full hour, with a blend of essential oils, cleansing and moisturising bespoke to my own skin. This treatment was heavenly, and I almost felt like I was transported to another place! With my skin glowing, I enjoyed herbal tea before leaving the spa on a cloud.
Weddings at Monkey Island Estate
You can hire the island for events, with prices starting at £40,000. However, there are several options for weddings here, and couples even get a complimentary honeymoon on the island. Monkey Island Estate also has several private residences that can be hired in the village of Bray.
You can choose to say your vows in a small ceremony in the River Room or Spencer Suite or go for a grand wedding in the Marlborough Ballroom. Monkey Island Estate can accommodate up to 130 guests within the Pavilion, or you can choose to host your day in a marquee on the lawns, with up to 300 guests. Monkey Island Estate also welcome wedding receptions if you choose to marry in the local church – St Michael’s – in Bray village, or indeed, another church close by. Arrive via boat, on foot over the bridge, or by helicopter.
The team at Monkey Island Estate have designed the wedding packages to take the stress out of planning your celebration and can advise on every aspect of your big day.