TRIBUTES have been paid to the ‘warm and genuine’ former owner of a Lake District hotel who has lost his battle against a brain tumour.

David Nicholson, who owned and ran Holbeck Ghyll Country House Hotel, Windermere, with wife Patricia for 22 years, died on January 23 after being diagnosed with the illness in 2011.

The 60-year-old was born in Newcastle-upon-Tyne to Jack and Jean Nicholson, and committed himself to his career at an early age, completing an HND in hotel management at Westminster College.

He fell in love with Patricia at the age of 17 and they married in 1978. Friends described them as ‘inseparable’.

Mr Nicholson became Centre Hotel’s youngest general manager at the age of 26, when he took on the Birmingham Centre, before joining First Leisure as a regional manager.

In February 1988 he and Patricia bought Holbeck Ghyll, which became their ‘all consuming passion’.

The couple worked every day almost without a break, and their hard work paid off when the business was awarded the prestigious Blue Ribbon by the RAC in the early 1990s, four AA red stars soon after and a Michelin Star in 2000.

Mr Nicholson was also actively involved in the industry, being a Master Innholder, of which there is less than 100 worldwide, and on the Board of Pride of Britain Hotels.

He rose to be seen as one of the country’s foremost hoteliers, was a passionate Sunderland supporter and had a great interest in horse racing, owning a successful horse named after Holbeck Ghyll.

He also loved to travel and was a keen golfer, and a member of Windermere Golf Club for many years with his wife. He had a particular love of France, was a good French speaker and loved nothing more than escaping with his wife and their dogs to their villa in the south of France.

A memorial service will be held at noon on March 5 at St Mary's Parish Church, Windermere.