Team player or individualist, there's something for everyone
STUDY IN Wales and the South-west and you're spoilt for choice when it comes to R&R, whether you're into team sports or more solitary pursuits. What with international level players emerging from institutions such as the University of Wales, Swansea, Wales is a magnet for rugby enthusiasts. But this year Cardiff will hog the limelight with its new stadium to host the Rugby World Cup. Indeed, Cardiff has a range of exceptional sports facilities, including the Welsh Institute of Sports centre and the National Athletics Stadium. There are even professional baseball and ice hockey teams.

While Cardiff University boasts two sports halls and about 12 sports pitches, the University of Wales Institute in Cardiff is one of the top three unis for sport in the UK, with a new pounds 7m indoor athletics centre and a reputation for leading the field in a variety of sports, including rugby, cricket and hockey.

Outside Wales, the College of St Mark and St John in Plymouth has excellent facilities, including a 25-metre swimming pool, fitness suite, gym, squash courts, three sports halls, floodlit Astropitch and training area, sailing dinghies, even plastic canoes.

But Bath University arguably has some of the best facilities in Britain - revamped for the 1995 European Youth Olympics - including 50- and 25- metre swimming pools; four indoor tennis courts with eight outdoors; athletics track; two astroturf pitches; 12 hockey, cricket, and other sports fields; squash courts, and weight training rooms - and all free to students.

If team sports aren't your bag, Bangor offers a bewildering range of activities and more than 40 student sport societies. On the coast just a few miles from Snowdonia national park, five miles from the Plas Menai National Watersports Centre and 18 from the Plas-y-Brenin National Mountaineering Centre, you can take your pick from the likes of wind-surfing, rock climbing, canoeing and sailing. Bangor's largest university society is the mountain walking club, which organises walks most weekends, and caters for all skill and fitness levels.

If you prefer something a little less rigorous, Bristol's cultural scene is second to none. The Theatre Royal and the Bristol Old Vic both hold excellent drama productions, while the Arnolfini in Narrow Quay offers more offbeat experimental theatre and film.

Indeed, film enthusiasts will be in clover: aside from the old three- screen ABC in Whiteladies Road and The Watershed in Cannon's Road, which show more arty films, you've also got the three-screen Odeon in Broadmead, the 14-screen Showcase in Avon Meads, and Cineworld multiplex in Hengrove Park.


Mark Knopfler, guitarist with Dire Straits, graduated from the University of the West of England