This song was written in in the 1870s to a traditional air collected in Skye by amateur folklorist Anne Campbell MacLeod. It first appeared in 1884 in the popular Songs of the North Gathered from the Highlands and Lowlands of Scotland. It has been suggested that the song recorded by Campbell MacLeod was Cuachag nan Craobh (Owl of the Woods) and that this is the air which the Skye Boat Song was loosely based on.
Although written in the 1800s, the theme of the song is Jacobite and tells of Bonnie Prince Charlie's escape to France following Culloden. It has been translated but was not originally sung in Gaelic.