There is a surprising amount of islands in the Thames. Canvey and Sheppey, of course, but also smaller curiosities: the island of Glover in Richmond and the island D'Oyly Carte, Weybridge, for example.
And less than an hour's drive from central London, there is an island that presents visitors with an almost perfect retro-Georgian idyll.
In 1738, Charles Spencer, Winston Churchill's great-grandfather, bought Monkey Island in Bray to celebrate his love of angling. He built a fishing lodge and a fishing temple.
Pristine: the new Monkey Island Hotel and its impeccable grounds
In those days, fishing was a search for the privileged classes, offering opportunities for contemplation after the nights of revelry and the days of punishment.
And let's not forget that The Admiralty gave the island of Lord Nelson Pharoah, also in the Thames near Weybridge, as a fishing retreat to recover after the rigors of the battle.
The Monkey Island Lodge and Temple, designed by Robert Morris, a pioneer vegetarian, were and still are buildings (classified in Grade I) of such an imposing presence that they would surely be denied planning permission in nearby modern Maidenhead.
Later, in 1744, when Spencer became a Duke and was upgraded to Blenheim Palace, Monkey Island became the madness of Marlborough. A hotel opened here in the 1840s and was soon served by the first generation of recreational steam launches.
By the time he discovered the island, Spencer had attended a noisy local party hosted by The KitKat Club, "men of wit and pleasure."
The Swinging Sixties commune of Eel Pie Island shares with Marlborough & # 39; s Folly a reputation for good dissipation, but the name of Monkey Island has religious origins. Originally inhabited by a branch of Merton Abbey, it was first known as Ojos de los Monjes, being eyot the average English for the "island".
Historical: an image, above, of the original loggia and temple
Today, you approach a new and ambitious YTL hotel on the island through Bray and on a motorway bridge. If this sounds disappointing, the effect is just the opposite. The M4 could be centuries away. Park, cross a pedestrian bridge and discover the gleaming stucco and vegetation of white Palladio, as Morris intended in 1738.
The view is designed to impress. The chickens roam the immaculate prepared grounds, which provide monastic herbs for the kitchen and for the elixirs used in the floating spa, a narrow converted boat.
In 2015, when the late Tan Sri Yeoh Tiong Lay, founder of a Malaysian construction company and president of YTL Hotels (named after his initials), bought the old hotel, it was horribly deteriorated. He was overwhelmed by ad-hoc additions and Monkey Island organized dejected weddings.
Chef Will Heming, before The Savoy
A New York firm called Champalimaud was responsible for the interior design of 27 rooms, three suites, a bar and the brewery. They have released the complete decorator effects manual to the project, working on a style that will be known, if I get it right, like Airport de Luxe.
It is neither totally antiquarian, nor a frigid boutique minimalism. There are leather cubes with magazines, rope balls, hand-painted wallpaper, scented candles (which will soon become taboo) and carpet art in abundance. All the signifiers of quality ambitions. But there are objections. The patterns collide; A generous independent bathroom has nowhere to put a book or towel; There are no full-body mirrors; the chair and the desk are horribly misaligned in height; and there is no mirror adjacent to the dryer.
There are glamorous ghosts on Monkey Island. His attractive appeal extended even to the decadent King Edward VII. Rebecca West and H. G. Wells were lovers here. In a hut on the riverbank, Elgar composed his concert for violin. Only upstream were the Bray studios, where Hammer's horror films were filmed on the days when blonde stars roamed this part of the Thames Valley in light blue convertibles.
The big question is how the Monkey Island hotel fits Bray's complex ethos, a Michelin star, with its Nantua sauce at the Roux Waterside Inn and its snail porridge in the duck Blumenthal Fat Duck. The answer is, very good.
The chef (Welsh) Will Heming, once of The Savoy, obtains local products when possible and treats them with respect and precision.
Glamorous ghosts: the decadent King Edward VII enjoys lunch
Overlooking the river, we ate smoked salmon at home, 35-day-old steak tartare, duck breast sausage roll. A very good bottle of Sicilian cricket cost £ 29.
A charming enchantment is a small attic Whiskey Snug, for solitary tastings, a modern madness of the great general manager, Lee Kelly, who has been given something for free with the arrangements.
After a glass of Monkey Shoulder, I had no difficulty in summoning the ghost of Charles Spencer and feeling a man of wit and pleasure. Monkey Island does that to you.
Nightly rates at Monkey Island Estate start at £ 275 per night in a Temple room. To reserve, call 01628 623 400, or visit monkeyislandestate.co.uk.