A view from one of the bedrooms at the Mitre Hotel.
Londoners tend to think of their city as only extending to the furthest point of the Underground system which means that Richmond is still London, albeit a very gentle conservation-minded version, with copious parks and Regency architecture to soothe the senses. Lockdown has allowed interior designer Nicola Harding to give a revamp to the Bingham Riverhouse. Two Georgian mansions have been combined to make a hang out space for locals with 15 bedrooms that have copper baths and a loungey vibe plus a waterfront garden.
The River Arts Club in Maidenhead
A local landmark a bit further upriver, the Mitre dates from 1665, when Charles II, one of Britain’s more convivial monarchs, decided he needed more space for guests in Hampton Court Palace. Opened between lockdowns in the U.K., designer Nicola Harding has also brought plentiful wit and indulgence here with 36 bedrooms, two restaurants and a boathouse centred around Whispering Angel rose wine. The setting, next to Hampton Court bridge with a bow window over the water is superb, a proper nod to post-Puritan life that resonates today.
A four poster bed at the historic Mitre hotel in Hampton Court.
Skipping along some aspects of the Thames that are less than lovely (Staines), or acceptable but lacking in hotels, eventually you reach Windsor. Fans of the Rocky Horror Picture Show will recognise the gloriously gothic Oakley Court, from the outside at least but this spring will see a full reopening of this 188-room property including private river frontage, an indoor swimming pool, a 9-hole golf course and a recently created kitchen garden to supply the hotel’s restaurants and new terrace bar. Part of the Atheneum group, the Runnymede also knows how to enjoy itself and has some very pleasant river frontage.
Oakley Court was used for filming by the Rocky Horror Picture Show.
Owned by the YTL group, Monkey Island in Bray didn’t open between lockdowns but is set to open fully on May 17. This glorious Regency stucco folly is on its own little island, reached by a bridge with 41 bedrooms, restaurants and bars plus a floating spa on a barge.
A bedroom at the River Arts Club
The River Arts Club in nearby Maidenhead isn’t easy to categorise. Anyone can stay and since it doesn’t have its own restaurant, it is essentially a B&B but a gloriously idiosyncratic one. Filled with contemporary art and bold, clever decor, the 13 rooms range from a tiny turreted single room to extravagant suites with private terraces; the ground floor has witty reminders of its military past, including an honesty bar and a cigar cellar. A boat, Ophelia, is permanently moored at the jetty, allowing for water-based incursions to the Michelin-starred restaurants of nearby Bray, including Fat Duck and the Waterside Inn, all of which are due to open again in April and May.
Monkey Island lies on its own island in the Thames near Bray.
Head further around the Thames and you reach Taplow in Buckinghamshire. There’s serious grandeur and history at Cliveden House and it is one one of the most beautiful stretches of the Thames, with a judicious blend of conservation and luxury. Spring Cottage where the Profumo affair unfolded, has its own boat mooring and garden, reached via a private path and will be open from April 12, with the rest of the hotel following in May.
I’ve specialised in travel journalism for over 20 years and now mostly write for the UK national press. I write for The Times, The Sunday Times and the Mail on Sunday and