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Image of Montserrat

A Window Into Montserrat

Learn about the island of Montserrat...

Few islands capture the duality of beauty and resilience quite like Montserrat. This mountainous island of the Caribbean, known as the ‘Emerald Isle’ for its lush landscapes and Irish heritage, has a unique story. In 1995, the seemingly dormant Soufrière Hills Volcano came back to life, unleashing a series of cataclysmic eruptions that forever changed the island. These eruptions devastated the lower two-thirds of Montserrat, forcing the abandonment of the capital, Plymouth, and the relocation of much of the population. While the scars of that period are still evident, Montserrat is an island in a remarkable recovery. Tourism is slowly returning, with people drawn by the island's volcanic activity, breath-taking hiking trails, and diverse birdlife. Join us as we delve into the captivating story of Montserrat, exploring its dramatic past and its vibrant present. We'll uncover the island's unique blend of Irish and Caribbean influences, discover the fascinating volcanic landscape, and explore the diverse activities that await adventurous visitors, from hiking and birdwatching to celebrating St. Patrick's Day – a national holiday here! Prepare to be surprised and inspired by the resilience and enduring beauty of Montserrat.

Montserrat: The Emerald Isle

Size: 40 sq miles 

National Tree: Hairy Mango

Population: 4,377

National Dish: Goat Water

Capital City: Plymouth

National Bird: Montserrat Oriole

Official Language: English

National Flower: Red Heliconia

Montserrat Map & Flag

Montserrat Map
Montserrat Flag

Nestled in the Eastern Caribbean, around 25 miles southwest of Antigua, lies the pear-shaped island of Montserrat, part of the Lesser Antilles. Measuring 13 miles in length and 7 miles in width, this lush isle is roughly 40 square miles (105 square kilometres).

Montserrat's flag, adopted in 1962, is a window into its heritage. A deep blue background evokes the Caribbean Sea, while the coat of arms features Erin, a figure in green symbolizing the island's strong Irish influence, holding a golden harp. The Union Jack in the corner signifies its status as a British Overseas Territory.

Montserrat Landscape & Geography

The island of Montserrat is volcanic and largely mountainous. The once-dormant Soufrière Hills Volcano erupted violently in 1995, unleashing pyroclastic flows and ash that has since altered the island. The capital, Plymouth, smaller settlements, farmland, and forests were buried and destroyed. Around 11,000 residents had to be evacuated and resettled in the north of the island or emigrated to other nations like Britain and the United States. 

Two-thirds of the island is still an exclusion zone. Whilst the volcano is still active, it has been relatively quiet since early 2010, giving nature a chance to slowly reclaim the devastated areas. Visitors can witness the volcano's power from designated viewing points or opt for boat trips or helicopter flyovers. Fearless adventurers can even obtain police permits to explore the ruins of Plymouth. 

Despite the destruction, the Centre Hills remain a haven for wildlife, including the Montserrat Oriole and the critically endangered mountain chicken frog. The island is also home to three species of sea turtle and The Montserrat National Trust arranges turtle-watching treks during nesting season in August and September.

Montserrat Culture

Montserrat culture has been shaped throughout the years by its diverse history and various settlers. While originally inhabited by the Taino people, the island's identity reflects a mix of influences from African to Irish. Its population is primarily of African descent but has a strong Irish influence, a reminder of the island's past. The island’s Irish roots date back to the 1600s when the Irish made up most of Montserrat's white population as indentured labourers, merchants, and plantation owners.

There is a tight-knit community spirit on the island which continues as displaced residents from the 1990s eruptions slowly return with the rebuilding of homes. Despite a population reduced by the devastating volcanic eruption, Montserrat perseveres both economically and culturally. Cricket reigns supreme as a beloved sport, while the national football (soccer) team ignites passionate support. The language itself, Montserrat Creole, adds a unique rhythm to daily life. The blend of Irish heritage, Caribbean warmth, and the resilience of those who've returned creates a distinctive feeling that embodies the spirit of this island.

Montserrat Carnival, Festivals & Events

Montserrat is a cultural melting pot where visitors and locals alike enjoy the festivals and events on the island that celebrate the history, and the island’s diverse talent and creativity:

St Patrick’s Week


St. Patrick's Week celebrates Montserrat's Irish heritage. The St. Patrick's Festival is a two-week-long celebration that highlights Montserrat's African and Irish roots. The festival concludes on St Patrick’s Day (March 17), which is also a public holiday. Montserrat is the only country outside of Ireland that celebrates St. Patrick's Day as a national holiday. Some of the festival highlights include outdoor soca and reggae concerts, street parades, pub crawls, and food fairs.

St Patrick
Photo by Quentin Rey on Unsplash

Calabash Festival


The Montserrat Calabash Festival serves as a vibrant summer celebration and a poignant commemoration of history. Held annually during the week of July 18th, it marks the anniversary of the Soufrière Hills volcano eruption in 1995 while offering a chance for the people of Montserrat to express gratitude and showcase their vibrant culture. The festival takes its name from the iconic calabash fruit, symbolizing African heritage and utilized in traditional crafts, musical instruments, and decorative items. Expect a family fun day, scenic hikes, island tours, a captivating African fashion show, and a lively craft and food fair brimming with delightful creations made from the calabash fruit.

Cudjoe Head Festival


The Cudjoe Head Festival is a celebration of Montserrat's African heritage. The village of Cudjoe was named after an 18th-century slave who was killed trying to run away. This annual event brings the tranquil village of Cudjoe Head to life with sound and celebration. Steelband music plays, accompanied by rhythmic drumming and the energy of masquerades. The festival serves as a weekend-long tribute to the island's rich cultural history, showcasing local performances, a lively road race, J'ouvert festivities, and an exhibition of locally crafted goods.

Montserrat Carnival


Enjoy a vibrant end-of-year celebration at Montserrat’s Carnival! This vibrant event, held from December to January 1st, is one of only two of the final and the first Caribbean Carnival of the year, making it a truly special experience. Immerse yourself in the island's music, culture, and history, as talented locals showcase their artistry through captivating performances, music, and colourful costumes. It's the perfect way to ring in the New Year.

Montserrat Food

The National dish of Montserrat is goat water, a stew authentically made from the meat of the male goat (ram). It is like the Irish stew and can be served with bread, or rice. It is a communal dish usually served at weddings, christenings, parties, and funerals. Try and make it for yourself with this recipe .

Other notable dishes from Montserrat include:

Duckna - A popular dish on the island, made with sweet potato, spices, and coconut. It is boiled and wrapped in banana leaves, resulting in a pudding or dumpling-like consistency. It can be served hot or cold and is a local staple.

Cassava Bread - A popular alternative to bread during the island’s festivals and carnival, made from the cassava root vegetable.

Muffins and bakes - Popular accompaniments to a saltfish breakfast or fish fry. Muffins are rounded fried staples that are like dumplings. Bakes are smaller in size but are equally delicious!

Saltfish - A popular dish made by soaking and boiling dried, salted fish until soft and then stewing it with onions, peppers, and tomatoes. It can be served for breakfast, lunch, or dinner.

Souse – A spicy, humble treat made from pickled pigs’ trotters and other parts of the pig that are cooked in a clear broth with onions, peppers, and cucumbers. Usually served with breadfruit or other ground provisions. 

Things To Do in Montserrat

Despite two-thirds of the island being part of the exclusion zone, there are lots of things to see and do in Montserrat. Here is a list of some of the highlights:

Go swimming, snorkelling, and diving at Rendezvous Bay, Montserrat's only white-sand beach. It is also accessible by kayak.

Experience the Exclusion Zone Tour to witness the aftermath of destruction in Plymouth and see how nature is reclaiming the area. Find out more .

Stop by Hilltop Coffee House and Family Centre, a non-profit café founded by filmmaker David Lea. Here, you can enjoy great coffee, teas, tropical juices and pastries. The café also features an art gallery wall showcasing the work of local artists, as well as special displays including memorabilia from life before the volcano. All proceeds from the café go towards community projects. Find out more.

Visit the Montserrat Volcano Observatory to see panoramic views of the exclusion zone. Here, scientists monitor every activity of the volcano, keeping track of every belch and hiccup. You can gain a unique insight into the physical and social upheaval caused by volcanic eruptions, and take in the sweeping views of the volcano from the terrace. Find out more.

Join a guided hike on Montserrat's Oriole Trail to get an up-close observation of the birds and nature in the rainforest. This trail is the most popular hiking destination in Montserrat. With the help of a guide, you will likely get a glimpse or hear the national bird during your hike. Find out more about hiking in Montserrat.

Take a trip to the National Museum of Montserrat to explore the island's rich culture and history. This modest museum features exhibits spanning from the pre-Colombian period to the present day, offering insight into Montserrat's past and present. You can even try your hand at playing a musical instrument from the museum's collection or pick up a local souvenir to take home with you. It's a great way to immerse yourself in the unique culture of Montserrat. Find out more.

Your Montserrat

While I poured over travel guides & researched online to craft this post, nothing compares to hearing about the island straight from those who've been there.

Since I haven't had the privilege of visiting Montserrat, I am reaching out to you!


We want to hear about YOUR Montserrat! Have you been to Montserrat recently or have a memory from before the volcano erupted? Or an experience or recommendation from the present that you’d love to share with the community? Whatever your Montserrat moment is, we want to share it! Here's how:

  1. Dig up that island photo: We want to see Montserrat through your eyes. Unearth your favourite snapshot, the one that brings back the island's magic.
  1. Craft your story: In just 1-2 sentences, tell us what made this experience your highlight. Share the essence of your island moment.

Simply fill in this form to get involved. Your submission might be featured in this blog post or on our social media channels, inspiring others to discover the wonder of Montserrat.

Sources and Further Reading

This article is a result of my interest and fascination with the island of Montserrat and my love for the Caribbean region. I have gathered information through research both online and in books to compile this blog post to share what I've discovered with you. However, I'm only human, and I may have missed something in my research, so if you happen to come across any information that appears to be incorrect or outdated, please do let me know by sending an email to Your input will be much appreciated and will help us improve this blog post for everyone's benefit.

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