In July 1995, the Soufrière Hills Volcano rumbled to life after centuries of slumber, and through a series of eruptions over the following years, devastated the southern half of the island. The capital city, Plymouth, was buried under ash and rubble, whilst the airport was forced to close. Around twothirds of the island’s 12,000 residents had to evacuate their homes, with many leaving the island altogether to build new lives in Britain, the USA or on other neighboring Caribbean islands.
MONTSERRAT VOLCANO OBSERVATORY
The Soufrière Hills Volcano is under constant supervision by the Montserrat Volcano Observatory (MVO) in Flemmings. Biweekly tours at the MVO offer an in-depth synopsis of the activity, including dramatic video shows of the recent eruptions and explanations of monitoring techniques such as volcanology, seismology, gas emissions, ground deformation and environmental impacts. Website: www.mvo.ms.
PLYMOUTH (SUBJECT TO VOLCANIC CONDITIONS)
Abandoned in 1997, Montserrat’s capital Plymouth has been compared to a modern day Pompeii. Buried deep in ash, the once thriving business and commercial centre of the island now resembles a dust-covered lunar landscape. At present, entry to Plymouth is subject to favourable conditions at the Volcano. Please contact the Police Department before attempting to enter Exclusion Zone.
JACK BOY HILL
In the north east of the island is a viewing facility at Jack Boy Hill, which also provides an excellent vantage point for volcano viewing. This facility overlooks the destroyed WH Bramble Airport, the old estate house, the site of destroyed eastern villages, now covered by volcanic pyroclastic fl ows and of course the volcano. The facility includes a viewing platform, picnic areas, a viewing telescope, a mini trail, landscaped grounds, and washroom facilities.
THE MONTSERRAT NATIONAL TRUST
The Montserrat National Trust is dedicated to the preservation and enhancement of the island’s historical sites and natural environment and has been a leading agency in the development of the island’s tourism products over the past 35 years.
The Trust operates a Natural History Centre, a small library, a gift shop and a garden with a variety of local plants. One of our veteran tour guides will be happy to give you a guided tour of the grounds. You can also purchase a variety of plants from the nursery to beautify your own garden.
In the Carr’s Bay area in the north of the island, you will fi nd remnants of a fort, with several cannons pointing out at sea in the direction of Redonda. Here you will also see a model version of the War Memorial and Clock Tower that were destroyed in Plymouth. If you are lucky you will also see the large iguana that lives in the rocks – a perfect picture spot.
BLAKES FOOTBALL FIELD
Financed by FIFAs Goal Programme this beautiful floodlit football field in Blakes, located just past Lookout, was opened in 2002. With its lush green grass and spectacular views of the ocean and mountains, this field is quite a sight.
Montserrat is a great destination for the adventurous traveller, with spectacular hiking trails covering the north of the island. The majority of hiking trails run through the Centre Hills region, which is renowned for its biological diversity and rich vegetation. Along the Centre Hills Trail, it might be possible to spot some resident tropical birds, including Montserrat’s rare national bird, The Oriole. Other regionally endemic species that might be found are the mountain chicken, actually a type of frog, and the rare galliwasp, which is half-snake half-lizard.
FESTIVAL AND EVENTS
As with any Caribbean Island, carnival spirit is never far away, and even with its small population Montserrat knows how to party.
CHRISTMAS AND NEW YEAR
Christmas is one of the island’s busiest times. The local population is boosted by holiday-makers as well as overseas-based Montserratians who return home for the festival season and ex-pat residents from the UK and USA (known as snowbirds) who spend the winter months in Montserrat. An annual Christmas festival runs throughout much of December and includes a Miss Festival Queen pageant; a Calypso King competition; Jouvert (early morning revelry), and a New Year’s Day costumed ‘jump up’ and parade. The streets are fi lled with an atmosphere of goodwill, merrymaking and the rhythmic beats of string and iron bands playing calypsos and soca music from across the Caribbean.
ST. PATRICK’S DAY
Montserrat’s Irish roots date back to the seventeenth century, when persecuted Irish Catholics sought refuge on Montserrat, a British colony.
Montserrat is the only country outside Ireland that marks St. Patrick’s Day as a public holiday, and a week-long programme of celebrations is organized to commemorate the event in mid-March.
Upon arrival in Monsterrat visitors receive a green shamrock stamp in their passports and may notice the legendary Irish fi gure of Erin with a harp on the national fl ag. The national costume of Montserrat is green and the national dish, goat water, is modeled after a traditional Irish stew.