Scarva gets its moment of fame once every year on the 13th of July during the famous Sham Fight.
King William of Orange camped here with his army of 30,000 in 1690 on the way to the famous Battle of the Boyne. The battle was decisive in determining Protestant political ascendancy and its anniversary is widely celebrated by Northern Ireland's Protestant communities.
Every 13th of July as many as 250,000 people congregate on the tiny village to commemorate King William's stay there and his victory. Initially a celebration with great political overtones, with the easing of religious tensions the Sham Fight is slowly taking on a less political and more festive overtone.
What Exactly Will I See if I go?
We are not politically minded, but decided to go to see the Sham Fight since we lived so close. The first thing to keep in mind if you want to go is to go as early as you can. Scarva is a tiny village, no more than a mile from end to end. There are only four roads that go to Scarva all single lane each way: B10 coming from Banbridge; B10 coming from Tandragee; and the B3 that comes from Loughbrickland on the one side and continues to Gilford on the other.
Where to park
You can imagine that if suddenly 250,000 people converge on the village through these small roads, traffic can build for miles. And parking, of course, is a different story. Several fields will become parking lots overnight and you will be able to park there for a small fee. Despite the shortage of space and roads, we were able to get there and park even if we weren't as early as we should have been.
Parades and mock fights
Once there the main attraction is the parades and the Fight itself. The parades are all by Orange Order groups from near and far away. But unlike July 12 parades that have been controversial and points of contention, this parade is more relaxed and peaceful. After the parade there is the mock Fight. Two groups of men march or ride in between the crowds and exchange blank gunfire shots. One group is dressed in white and red and represents the soldiers of King William while the other group wears white and green and represents the soldiers of King James. The atmosphere is festive but if you have small children be aware that the gunfire is very loud.
Apart from the parade and the Fight there are many stalls that sell fast food and drinks which you will need if the day is hot. Do keep some spare coins for the many charity collections. And while there ask people to show you to the old magnificent chestnut tree underneath which King William is said to have camped.
If you happen to be in County Down on July 13 then a visit to Scarva and the Sham Fight is definitely worth a visit, but don't get political about it. Go there, enjoy the festivities, meet people take photos and build your memory book having been to an event that is definitely one of the biggest crowd-getters in Northern Ireland.